Report by Andy Ogle (Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association)
The Vancouver Island Spine Trail is roughly 30 km closer to completion thanks to a small but dedicated band of volunteers who spent half-a-dozen weekends this summer and fall working on the “Tuck Lake” trail.
Extending from Nitinat River and Tuck Lake in the east to Francis Lake in the west, the trail section will extend the Runners Trail which was built in 2010, and finalize the link from the west end of Cowichan Lake to the Alberni Canal, a key part of the southern half of the Spine Trail. The VI Spine Trail, as proposed, will ultimately run from Victoria up the “spine” of the island to Cape Scott, a distance of some 700 km.
Some work remains to be done on the Tuck Lake section, but most of it, from Nitinat River, over a pass down xx Nadira Road and in the timber along the north shore of Francis Lake has now been flagged and cleared of brush and small trees. The crews, led by trail boss Jay Rastogi from Nanaimo, did relatively little soil disturbance but created a wilderness trail that is well-flagged and fairly easy to follow. While it passes by several clear-cut logged areas, the trail mostly stays in or close to riparian zones where timber stands are left intact.
The use of volunteer labour is kept the cost down of building the 30-km section, which is budgeted at just $13,500. Donations, including the $2,100 grant from the FMCBC, will cover the cost.
Volunteers have come from the Alberni Valley Outdoor Club, the Alpine Club of Canada, and others from several Island centres as well as VISTA board members and friends, including Gil Parker, VISTA’s founder and past-president who has been out for nearly every work weekend. Robert Gunn, VISTA’s regional co-ordinator for the Alberni-Clayquot region determined the initial route. Weekend efforts often included camping overnight at a boulder beach at the northwestern end of Francis Lake where the Runners Trail from Headquarters Bay on the Alberni Inlet formerly ended. On several hot weekends in August, the trail builders rewarded themselves with swims in the pristine waters of Tuck and Francis Lakes.
Some more clearing, trail marking and signage is planned for this fall, depending on weather,with a view to official opening in the spring of 2013.