Castlegar Friends of Parks and Trails

Connecting the community at the Crossroads of the Kootenays

The /best view of the city is from the top of the Brilliant Overlook Trail.

The /best view of the city is from the top of the Brilliant Overlook Trail.

Chris Mansbridge

Castlegar News


Since its inception, the Castlegar Friends of Parks and Trails has helped our city undergo a major transformation. It has changed walking through town from a stroll down to Columbia Avenue, to an escape into nature.

Castlegar has no shortage of historic sites and beautiful places to explore— the city is surrounded by forest and mountains in all directions. But before trails were established, most people would never get a chance to see them. The Friends of Parks and Trails grew the city’s existing trail network to reach in all directions, allowing accessibility to much of what the area has to offer. Through the years the group has taken stewardship over many of the forested pathways that weave through the green spaces between neighbourhoods, while constructing trails to the tops of mountains and even to other cities.

Holding true to community-based roots, the outfit has grown from just a handful of members, to a staple local organization with a board of directors and paid trail maintenance staff. Most important of all, it’s embraced by those who love the outdoors.

“I think  the strength of Friends of Parks and Trails lies in the diversity of its membership,” said club member Greg Hollingshead. “While having a respect for the outdoors in common, the group includes casual walkers, serious hikers as well as a strong contingent of mountain-bikers. This in turn is reflected in the trails that the society supports.” And the trails do vary to satisfy anyone. They maintain the relatively short, flat Waldie Island Trail, while at the same time were responsible for the construction of Brilliant Overlook, which takes you to the top of the Brilliant Bluff.

The result is a truly unique city experience. Because of their hard work someone from almost any area of town can walk from the section of trail nearest their neighbourhood and travel to anywhere else in the community. It’s even possible to walk to the village of Glade through the Skattebo Reach Trail or even the city of Trail through the Columbia View Trail.

Treasurer of the organization, Lawrence Redfern, said it best. “Trails connect the community not only through the pathways, but also in a human sense. Trail users come from all walks of life, all ages, and for multiple reasons. Within our Society we have adrenalin-junkie mountain bikers, contemplative walkers, health and fitness enthusiasts and commuter.” Redfern continued to explain the diversity of the users, from two months to 92 years old, because the trails are accessible to almost everyone and are about much more than just walking. “Through well-developed infrastructure, trails can provide important health, economic, recreational and educational benefits to many, many people. When you meet people out on our local trails they are always smiling!”

As the organization grows, so does the following and the diversity. Last summer, they completed two mountain bike trails up Merry Creek to continue Castlegar’s reputation of having some of the best-built mountain bike trails in the Kootenays. Backed by secured funding from the Recreation Commission and keen volunteers to help build and repair trails beside their professional builders, the Friends of Parks and Trails will continue to make our city one of the most pedestrian—friendly cities around.