Community Forest trails inventoried

Society maps community forest trail network, eyes developing additional trails in Eager Hills area.

The Cranbrook Community Forest boundaries are outlined in the black borders on the map.

The Cranbrook Community Forest boundaries are outlined in the black borders on the map.

To the north and the east of the city boundaries lies an extensive network of trails with the Cranbrook Community Forest for hikers, mountain bikers and outdoor enthusiasts to take advantage of.

To ensure that the trail network remains maintained and developed properly, the Cranbrook Community Forest Society recently completed a trail inventory plan.

A trail management plan was created many years ago in 1997, however, this latest draft plan has been in the works since April 2015. This current plan is designed to be updated every five years as the CCFS can now track and monitor the development and maintenance of every trail.

Chris Bullock, who is on the CCFS trail committee, says the trail plan is a important document that will help guide the CCFS in the future.

“Originally, when the community forest was created, there was a master plan that laid out a whole bunch of different objectives for the Community Forest, but there was a missing appendix regarding the actual specific details on the trails, so that was kind of a hole in the original plan,” Bullock said. “The trails have evolved organically up there for a long time and we realized there was a need to inventory what we have and rationalize the ones we’ve got and then maybe look at where the new trails should be going.”

The trail network includes 36 trails with 72 kilometres complete with signage. It includes established, authorized, and unauthorized trails. Currently, there are no ‘established’ trails in the CCSF network; most trails are considered authorized by the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operations but are not protected by the Forest and Range Practices Act.

There are also the odd trail that is unauthorized, added Bullock.

“The problem with that is not all the factors are being considered when trails are being built and then you have a bunch of people waiting around, wanting to help, but they can’t because they don’t want to get doing stuff that’s illegal,” he said.

“Now that we have a plan that lays out where we see the holes to be filled, we can direct peoples energies towards those areas and they can do it in a way that considered all the various factors that need to be considered.”

Even though Bullock cautions against any outside individuals or groups building unauthorized trails, he says there is future developments in the works for network expansion, specifically into the northern part of the community forest.

“We have a maze of trails up in the south part of the forest and we have some opportunities to develop the north part, the Eager Hills area, which right now is relatively pristine and we’d like to be careful that we properly think out our network out there before we just let people go,” Bullock said.

“We have a lot of projects now that are approved, so people can put their energies towards legit trails.”

One upcoming project will be building an accessible trail from the College of the Rockies campus up to Sylvan Lake that will consider the needs of people pushing strollers or operating wheelchairs.

“One of our bigger projects that’s going to cost money is a better connector from the College to Sylvan Lake,” Bullock said. “It’ll be a nice easy grade so that people can push their strollers up and make it more accessible to the community.”

Trail maintenance and development will also be easier, with a database and inventory of the network that will give the CCFS the opportunity to coordinate with outside groups who want to help out.

“Right now there’s a lot of energy from the Wildhorse Cycling Club to build trails, but we also are dealing with the backcountry horseman have interests, hikers have interests, so we’re trying to keep in mind what everyone’s needs are and make sure that we can use the energy that’s there towards trail-building or fixing old trails that need fixing,” said Bullock.

The CCFS trail committee is looking for some to join them and represent the interests of hikers. If anyone is interested in volunteering, email ccf.trailplan@gmail.com. The trail plan can be viewed on the CCFS website at www.cranbrookcommunityforest.com.