Posted by: karlrobinstevenson | February 8, 2016

Trail System For Strathcona Park?

A Good Trail System For Strathcona Park?

(Click on link for map at bottom of article.)

This map is not 100% accurate, and it’s not intended as a trail guide.  Its purpose is to show to show the large number of trails created by park users in Strathcona Park.  BC Parks has never had funds to create trails in Strathcona (other than a few short trails to points of interest close to roads), so the bulk of trails in the park have been created by hikers themselves.

Its not always clear why BC Parks chooses whether or not to officially recognize a trail.  On this map, most of the trails outlined in black are hiker-created, and all are officially recognized.  All of the trails outlined in red are hiker-created, but it’s sometimes unclear which ones are officially recognized and which aren’t.  A few hiker-created trails might be missing from the map, since more are appearing all the time.

Some hiker-created trails are well marked and easy to follow, others aren’t.  Some are sporadically marked with ribbons and cairns, some aren’t.  BC Parks maps show some hiker-created trails but not others.  Some trails are good, some are bad, some are downright ugly.  Governments have never done anything to create a trail system for the park, and the “system” on the map is the inevitable result.  If it weren’t for trails created by park users, Strathcona would have almost no trails at all.

The purpose of this article is to see if people are interested in creating a coherent, practical, low-impact system of trails in Strathcona Park.  I believe a good, easy to follow trail system is urgently needed to allow people to enjoy and appreciate the park with minimal human impact.

Trails do this by confining human impact to the smallest area possible.  If people can see a trail they follow it, especially if they know it’ll take them where they want to go.  By following the trail, they automatically confine their own impact to the specific area of the trail. This happens with no supervision and no enforcement, as long as the trail is easy to follow.  If it’s hard to follow, people lose it, and blunder around trying to find it again.  They then impact large areas, create false trails, and totally defeat the purpose of the original trail.

This is currently happening in Strathcona Park.  If there’s no trail, people take the easiest route they can find.  As more people follow the same route, a definable path appears.  If the path isn’t easy to follow, people to lose it and blunder around, impacting large areas, creating false trails, and the cycle continues.  Park officials call the trails “routes” and tear down ribbons and other markings, but this isn’t a solution.  It actually makes things worse.  With the markings removed, more people lose the trail, blunder around, impact more areas, create more false trails, and on and on.

The real solution is to provide Strathcona Park with a good trail system.  Governments have had more than a century to do this in Strathcona, but as the map shows, they haven’t done it.   Will the next century be any different?  It certainly doesn’t look like it at this point.

But there might be another way — low cost, low impact, and very practical.  Park users — mainly hiking and mountaineering clubs — have built good trails in the park in the past.  These trails are almost all of the best trails in the park.  They’re still in use today, quietly and efficiently limiting and containing human impact, exactly as they’re supposed to, exactly as they’ve always done.

These trail have worked so well for one main reason: they were planned and sited by people who had years of experience in the park.  In practical matters, experience is often better than money, as these trails clearly show.  They’re wisely sited and they’re only wide enough for one person, which allowed them to be built with minimal ground disturbance and consequently minimal erosion.  Their width also made them quick and easy to build at very low cost.

Normal people with normal talents and intelligence (and an adequate pool of people with adequate experience and knowledge) can certainly plan and implement a coherent, comprehensive, practical, low cost trail system for Strathcona Park. The groundwork was put in place a long time ago by people who knew and loved the park.  Most of those people are gone now, but there’s a fresh crop of sufficiently experienced people today who know and love the park just as much, who are quite capable of continuing where they left off.

Good trails lessen and contain human impact, in accordance with the main theme of the Strathcona Park Master Plan.  Unplanned trails of all types are now springing up all over Strathcona Park.  A planned system of trails is obviously needed, and the likelihood of a government-created system is basically nil.  Experienced and knowledgeable park users can create such a system if government will allow it — a big question.

Park users created good trails in Strathcona Park in the past.  Park users today can do the same — if they’re allowed to.  Trail work is fun, believe it or not.  There’s always a place for everyone, and it’s a chance to give something to the park.  On the other hand, dealing with governments isn’t fun for most people, including me.  I’m hoping there’s someone out there willing to help with this.

If you’re interested, please send an e-mail to me, Karl Stevenson — particularly if you love negotiating with government officials.

I may not always reply to e-mails immediately — sometimes I’m away for several weeks — but I will reply.

A huge thank you to Tim Penney for the map.  —–  Link for map mentioned in article


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