Hiking trails 'back on the agenda' 

Task Force pleased by response, first-year success

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It's been 11 months since the Whistler Hiking Trails Task Force (HTTF) first presented its report on the state of hiking and local trails to the Forest and Wildlands Advisory Committee, but members of the group are already encouraged by what the group has achieved working with stakeholders, local government and others.

The group, formed by Kurt Mueller, was concerned by the deteriorating conditions on local hiking trails and the lack of funding or planning to address the situation. Back in January, he told Pique: "Whistler has been so focused on off-road biking that hiking has totally fallen away. The trails are in such poor shape we can't really send visitors out there and local people. Even the Rainbow Lake Trail, which is one of our major trails in the municipality, is in really bad shape right now. That's the one that can be most easily accessed from a paved road, and that's the first one we want to improve."

The HTTF estimated that it would take about $2 million to repair all of Whistler's alpine trails, while also advocating for more signature trails to draw hikers from around the world.

The HTTF's efforts resonated in the resort, and as a result the group — Mueller, Don MacLaurin, John Hammons, Rupert Merer, Mitchell Sulkers, Bryce Leigh, Kevin Titus, Iain Grunwell, Richard Auer and Doug Wylie — was able to achieve a lot in the past year. They compiled an end of year list of achievements, as well as list of things to tackle in the coming years.

• The Whistler Trails Planning Working Group was established by the municipality and includes stakeholders including representatives from the RMOW, Cheakamus Community Forest, Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association, and Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC). The group was tasked with providing input to the recreational Master Plan, Official Community Plan and a new Alpine Trail Program 2013-2016 Five Year Financial Plan.

• Through RSTBC, the province has contributed $125,000 for trails in the Whistler area for 2012 and 2013, some of which has already been spent on work on the popular Rainbow Lake Trail and Brandywine Meadow Trail.

• The creation of the Alpine Trail Program with a five-year budget. It is expected that the 2013 municipal budget will include an item for non-motorized alpine trails.

• The Whistler section of the Alpine Club of Canada has started a hiking group that is similar to the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association. The goal is to unite and organize hikers, and to advocate for trails.

As well, HTTF provided an update on trails that received some work this past summer.

• Rainbow Lake Trail — The RMOW has repaired the two major bridges while the RSTB funding has completed the initial construction phase for a new trail section from the Gin and Tonic Bridge to Rainbow Lake that will bypass a dilapidated boardwalk section. The Alpine Club of Canada put in some volunteer hours to improve the lower part of the trail as well.

•Ancient Cedars Trail — Various groups from the community have collaborated on work to improve this trail and the access road, including the RSTBC, Cheakamus Community Forest (CCF), Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, The Adventure Group (TAG), the Rotary Club, the Whistler Blackcomb Habitat Improvement Team (which recruited volunteers to work on the trail), and others. The trail is now in good shape and has both signage and benches for users.

•Brandywine Meadows Trail — RSTBC hired a contractor to improve the hiking trail, and this year plans were made to rebuild or reroute sections of the trail onto higher ground. Work will get underway in summer of 2013. As well, RSTBC, CCF and Blackcomb Snowmobiles have collaborated to improve the access road.

•Brew Lake Trail from Roe Creek FSR — The UBC Varsity Outdoor Club recently cut a new hiking trail from a new FSR branch to access their cabin in the area. The new trail makes Brew Lake and Mt. Brew accessible for hikers of all levels, including seniors and families.

•Singing Pass Trail — Discussions are ongoing how to promote and develop the trail and the recent draft update of the Garibaldi Park Management Plan makes a provision for creating a new trail-head that people can drive to on the north side of Fitzsimmons Creek.

The HTTF is already working on plans for the 2013 season with stakeholders, including future trail projects.

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