Aiming for a World Class Trail System
British Columbia is a province with a wealth of natural beauty. As such, the trail system of BC allows people to fully integrate themselves in and enjoy the wilderness and unique landscapes. A recreation trail is a path or course completely or partially used for at least one recreation activity. The trails are a connection between people and nature. As a result, it is important that the trail system of BC achieves it’s goal of linking people to the land without causing harm to the land or other land-users. Sustainable use and management is central to a thriving trail system. The BC Trails Strategy aims to provide strategic management and planning for the trail networks throughout the province.
The Partnership Spirit
The BC Trails Strategy was drafted through the cooperation and collaboration of a number of relevant groups, including First Nations, tenure holders, recreation organizations, and government agencies. Via a provincial survey the groups determined the issues of the trails system that affected any or all groups of land users. With this information, as well as consideration of hundreds of written letters from interested parties concerning trail networks, the BC Trails Strategy was created and perfected. The implementation of the Trails Strategy will also involve First Nations, tenure holders, and other user groups. The result of the collaboration and union of independent groups is an effective, overarching plan for trails across British Columbia.
Vision and Guiding Principles
The vision of the BC Trails Strategy is:
A world-renowned, sustainable network of trails, with opportunities for all, which provides benefits for trails users, communities, and the province.
Because of the impressive natural beauty of BC, the trail network of the province, if constructed and managed properly, will be world class with its proximity to such expansive wilderness. If the trail network is created and managed in a sustainable fashion, environmental, social and economic values will be balanced, providing long-term enjoyment and benefit to people now and in the future. With effective trails strategies, the opportunities provided by the trails will be enjoyed by all varieties of trail users without losing its mark of environmental sustainability or harming other land users such as First Nations and tenure holders. The benefits of an effective Trails Strategy will be reaped by individuals, communities, and the province.
There are seven guiding principles within the BC Trails Strategy. These guiding principles ensure that the four corner stones of sustainable trail development, namely First Nations involvement, public safety, environmental stewardship, and approval from tenure holders, are set as the solid foundation for trail management and planning. The guiding principles also ensure that the planning process is thorough and transparent so that management decisions are made through collaboration with all relevant parties and no conflicts remain.
Strategic Context for Trails
BC has over 30,000 km of trails that are formally recognized by the province, with many more km of trails that are currently not maintained or managed. Within this system, over 12,000 km of trails are managed by Recreation Sites and Trails BC, 800km are part of the infamous Trans Canada trail, and over 500 km are of First Nations and Heritage trails.
Trails are important to the province, its inhabitants and its guests in numerous ways. They enhance community quality of life, health and well-being; provide economic and educational opportunities; improve environmental awareness and stewardship; lend recognition to BC’s First Nations and their cultural history; and provide opportunities for greener, more sustainable forms of transportation.
Some key issues that need to be addressed within the BC Trails Strategy are as follows:
- Trail features, if not constructed or managed properly, can contribute to soil, water, wildlife, and/or other environmental damage.
- There is a need for more comprehensive and exhaustive trail information resources such as brochures, maps and signs to ensure proper, safe use of trails and minimization of damage to surrounding environment
- Trail maintenance is an important and under-implemented feature of trail systems that is necessary to avoid unsafe use of trails and damage to the surrounding environment.
- There is a need for a more adequate compliance and enforcement service to ensure that trail rules are followed and that safety, First Nations, tenure holders and the environment are all respected by trail
- There are trail user conflicts that must be resolved in order to ensure enjoyment of trails by all interested groups.
Key Components and Actions
Some of the key components and actions of the BC Trails Strategy include:
- Assimilate a framework of environmental considerations, actions and standards into planning, construction and management of the provincial trail network
- Enhance environmental awareness and stewardship through increased exposure to nature
- Collaboratively develop local, regional and provincial trail system plans that balance environmental, cultural and social values while maintaining safety for all users
- Engage First Nations in collaborative planning
- Engage landowners, tenure holders and other stakeholders in collaborative trail planning
- Integrate trail planning with the transportation network system
The implementation of the BC Trails Strategy, through the use of a provincial trail advisory body, will ensure a successful and safe network of trails within the province that benefits the environment, residents—including First Nations, tenure holders, and other stakeholders– and guests of British Columbia.
- Source Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Ressource Operations.Trails Strategy for British Columbia. 2020. Available at : https://www.orcbc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/trail-strategy.pdf [Accessed 03/2021].