Walkers’ wonderland expanding

Castlegar Friends of Parks and Trails oversees a growing recreational network

Building a Trail at Merry Creek last November.

Building a Trail at Merry Creek last November.

One of the most convenient, healthful and enjoyable pastimes imaginable (for those able to do it) is simply going for a walk. To be able to do it in spectacular surroundings is an absolute bonus.The entire West Kootenay area is endowed with wonderful geography and the territory around Castlegar has more than its share of choice strolling/hiking routes.

But it’s not like nature didn’t need any help in creating the walkers’ paradise at our front and back doorsteps. A tremendous amount of work has gone into the creation and maintenance of the approximately 80 kilometres of trails that stretch roughly (and smoothly) from Glade to Trail.

Thanks to Castlegar’s Friends of Parks and Trails there is a no-charge recreational opportunity that never loses it’s appeal from year to year. In fact, Trails society spokesperson Lawrence Redfern says the interest and use of the trails is only growing as time goes by.

An open house held by the society drew about 80 interested people recently, a turnout Redfern says was pleasing to the volunteer group.The society formed to cultivate and promote the network of local trails is populated by those with a love of the outdoors, mixed with the community spirit and energy to put some sweat into the work required to keep the grid at its best.

The cost of belonging is $10 per year.”You really don’t get anything for your ten bucks, other than the fact that you support the society,” Redfern explained with a chuckle on March 9. “The trails are free and we don’t ask people to do anything, and the newsletters are available on our website.”The people who belong are proactive and willing.

Redfern said last November about 30 showed up and put in four tough hours of work in trail-building. As well as users, they’re stewards. If they happen to see something on their walk that needs attention they can just email the maintenance coordinator and know it’ll be seen to.

“That helps us to know where the maintenance needs are without having to go to these places all the time,” said Redfern, who added that much has been done in other ways over the years as well, such as with grant money and Katimivik volunteers, for example.What’s well worth mentioning is the variety and accessibility of the trails, and the fact that a good deal of terrain is fairly level – you don’t have to be an extreme athlete to negotiate it.

Related to the system is a growing emphasis on the accommodation of mountain bikers – itself, a recreational/competitive activity with a rapidly growing profile. Trails for downhill mountain biking may soon be on the way, to be situated above the Merry Creek walking trail.”Downhill mountain biking is huge,” said Redfern.

“We’ve purposely kind of partnered, and recruited a bunch of people from the ad hoc Castlegar Mountain Bike Society. They’re skilled, energetic people between 25 and 35 and they’re really the right kind of people to have involved in the society.”It’s tough to think of a more appealing, wholesome, sustainable  asset for a community, and figures exist that demonstrate the growing interest people have in the local trails.”If you talk to Ann and Pam at the info centre they’ll tell you it’s the number one request they have,” said the eager spokesman.

“We’re going to have a very good year this year,” Redfern concluded. Hard to think any different, especially if someone like yourself decides to get involved.