Sustainable Trail Development

Trails need to be constructed to a recognized industry standard, following Professional Trail Builder Association, IMBA, or Whistler Trail Standards guidelines. Consistent and responsible trail maintenance may be the most important aspect to sustainable trail development; It is important to note that poor management is the most common cause of improper design, construction, or maintenance. Therefore, it is essential to develop specific policies that fit to local situations since trail and infrastructure maintenance requirements depend on many unpredictable factors. These policies will include thorough documentation of the inspection and maintenance of trails.

The vision for the trail system in Columbia Valley is to develop a logical and inviting trail network that reduces user conflict, is environmentally friendly and is built to require minimal maintenance.

General Recommendations:

  • Work with government bodies and private landowners to sanction, unsanctioned trails, where appropriate.
  • Offer comprehensive, consistent signage, including trailhead kiosks, junction maps, trail difficulty rating, and wayfinding signage. Create comprehensive and consistent mapping for all trails in electronic and print format.
  • Make access to trails easier; build trailhead facilities at all trails.
  • Coordinate with each local government to act as a cohesive group in marketing the region, so all can have access to the potential economic benefits of trail development.
  • Create a detailed operations and maintenance plan.
  • Create a Central Hub for mountain biking activities in strategic locations, such as Mt. Nelson Athletic Park in Invermere, Panorama, and Nipika. Create a central hub for off highway vehicle (OHV) use in Canal Flats and sanction OHV trails in the area.
  • Create easy access between communities and to the core of the communities.
  • Encourage development of additional campground facilities.
  • Use IMBA and other industry standard guidelines for trail design.

Decomissioning of Trails:

Trails may become run down over time due to weather, poor maintenance, or by being replaced by a new trail. In each case, the trail must be decommissioned and must be done so in a way that is environmentally sensitive. Closure of trails can sometimes be difficult to enforce, however it is important that users stay off of the area. When done improperly, the trails recovery period to its natural state can take from 5 to upwards of 20 years for a full restoration.

There are many ways to decommission and restore trails to their natural pre-existing state. The main methods include transplanting, replacing soil, rock and log placing, and strategically closing off the trail entrance. From past experience, signage, a simple gate or a blockade is not an effective method in decommissioning a trail. Instead, a dense planting of vegetation and regrading the trail entrance to its existing slope is a much better method to effectively close the trail entrance. In all instances, the heavily compacted tread needs to be broken up and loosened to allow plants to recolonize the trail corridor.

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