Matt Gunn (North Shore Hikers) and Brian Wood (BCMC) have summarized some of the concerns and benefits of the Draft Trails Strategy:
In general, the draft wording is so broad that initially there does not seem to be much to object to. However “the Devil is in the details”; we should try to ensure that the final document reflects our interests. It is important that club members submit feedback on any concerns with the broad wording that may create issues in the future. A major thrust of the strategy is to encourage existing outdoor clubs to assume stewardship and maintenance role for individual trails, which could then receive “official status”. Many thousands of volunteer hours have gone into trail building and maintenance so recognition is desirable, but it is unknown if many of our mountain access trails would comply with proposed trail standards.
Some potential benefits from the trails strategy include:
1) The recommendation of a collaborative planning process that would ensure the needs of motorized and non motorized user groups are met. It is hoped that this results in a fair division of trails between the different user groups. Governments often like “shared use trails” but this is usually not practical as many trail and land uses are incompatible with each other, eg motorized use versus non-motorised use. This is VERY important to us.
2) The strategy mentions a potential “inherent risk legislation” to limit liability of stewardship groups from trail users. This would be very positive, but you can assume, even if this suggestion is regarded favourably by the government, it would take many years for it to be adopted, so we have to live with the present unsatisfactory liability situation.
3) Development of ‘best practices’ for managing trails on private land, although it is uncertain what this will eventually mean.
4) The integration of recreational trail use into resource road decisions. We would like this IF, and it is a BIG IF, trail groups opinions were taken seriously when decisions are made regarding road planning, maintenance and de-activation .We need DRIVEABLE resource roads to access trailheads, and it would be really appreciated if they were TWO-WHEEL driveable.
5) An inventory of trails and a comprehensive survey of trail users. This is long overdue, but I would not like to see many resources invested in this “paper project” before we see something positive actually happening on the ground.
Some negative components are listed below:
6) The strategy indicates the trail systems need to be designed to “not adversely impact other users of Crown land resources such as forestry, mining ranching and trapping.” For a group to take responsibility for trail maintenance, we feel there should be some assurance that any industry will definitely accommodate the trail, and not merely “log over” or bulldoze our trails, or gate the access road as is very common practice.
7) While the strategy briefly mentions the need for classification of trails according to the desired experience or user group, we strongly believe this point needs to be far more significant in the strategy. For non-motorized groups such as hikers, the distinction of a trail as non-motorized is critical if a club is going to take on responsibility for maintenance. In addition, a trail that traverses rugged terrain primarily for accessing mountains should be held to a much lower building and maintenance standard than a low level trail in easily accessible terrain. Clearly, there should be a strong emphasis on signage and enforcement of non-motorized trail status.
8) The strategy states “Liability insurance can be provided to trail stewardship groups who manage approved trails” and is specific to trails that are established under Section 56 of the Forest Range and Practices Act. The Trails Strategy does not specify what happens if the trails are not approved, which I believe will be likely for many of our mountain access trails. Stewardship groups, whether registered societies or not, should not take on liability for “non-approved trails”, given the high cost and vagueness of insurance, and thus, if not maintained, such trails likely will deteriorate and become more dangerous. It is hoped that eventually “inherent risk legislation” would mitigate this potential problem. A pessimistic take on this particular subject is that liability problems probably will get worse before they get better.
9) .The strategy also focuses on the “marketing” of the trail system, presumably to increase revenue, but there is no reference to determination of the “carrying capacity” of the trail, or the terrain adjacent the trial. If trails are to be considered as an important tourism asset or commodity, there should be adequate funding to protect the asset by incorporating adequate trail construction and maintenance funding into the tourism budget.
10) Canada has two ambitiously-proposed, Coast-to-Coast trails, i.e. the National Hiking Trail (NHT) and the Trans-Canada Trail (TCT). The NHT is not so well known as the TCT and was NOT mentioned in this draft, and yet it was proposed well before the TCT. The NHT is a single use, low budget trail and traverses some wild country, whereas the TCT is a more urban, low level trail, much more costly (it was once well–funded) and is mostly a multi-use or shared-use trail with less appeal to hikers. We should ensure that the NHT is clearly mentioned in the final document, as this trail, particularly the BC section, would likely appeal to many more hikers.
Matt Gunn and Brian Wood, final as submitted to BCMC Newsletter 19 January 2009