The Castlegar Parks and Trails Society held a public meeting last week to explain their plans to expand the Dove Hill trail network. The trails are located near the Castlegar Golf Course and were built about 20 years ago.
"They were built for the peaceful enjoyment of the environment — a chance to get out of the city," said the society's president Doug Clark.
Dove Hill is easily accessible to residents and connects with the Trans Canada Trail. With a relatively low elevation, trails are accessible for most of the year, which makes this location unique to the West Kootenay.
The expansion will include over 10 km of new trails with features for hikers, joggers and mountain bikers. The plan is that the original trail will primarily be left as a hiking trail with the exception of a 30-metre section that leads to the apex.
The hiking trails have many sections that are too steep and have too sharp of curves for mountain biking, so a lot of the new trails will be designed for bikers. These new bike trails will primarily cater to intermediate level mountain bikers, which make up the majority of riders; however, there will be some beginner and advanced sections. Some of the proposed trails will be designated as uphill and downhill only trails.
New kiosks highlighting aboriginal and geological history as well as new trail signage are included in the plans.
The society estimates the project will take about five years to complete and will cost around $100,000. A large portion of that funding will come in the form of grants, support from local businesses and contractors, and the labour of volunteers.
An archaeological assessment has been carried out on the proposed trail locations to ensure both historical and environmental sensitivity.
The society has also already met with the Castlegar Golf Course to work out any concerns that they might have due to the proximity of the trails to the golf course property and informed residents of Tower Ridge about the project.
The society has received approval from BC Recreation Sites and Trails for using Dove Hill for new trails and for the existing trails. However, an environmental impact assessment, which is currently underway, must be completed before the new routes are approved by the Crown.
A few people at the meeting expressed concern over potential disruption to an area that is used as an early spring feeding range for elk and deer by one of the proposed trails.
Carol Andrews, a Selkirk professor of Environment and Geomatics and registered forester expressed, "I am just concerned that we need to ensure that this trail system doesn't impact quite a unique early season ungulate range. It is one of the few south facing slopes we have along the valley.
The concerns just involve one of the new proposed routes, those assembled did not have any problems with the remaining routes.
Clark told the crowd they would take their concerns into consideration, "It is part of our society's mission statement that we want to build in an environmentally sustainable manner. We don't want to harm the environment," he said. The society is waiting for input from BC Fish and Wildlife before making any final decisions.