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Squamish Trails Master Plan discussed

Council discusses trails at committee of the whole

With a government grant of $60,000 and with help of community volunteers, a trail called Half-Nelson was built in Squamish in the spring of 2010.

Last winter, it shot to fame after an article in the November 2010 Mountain Bike Magazine featured Half-Nelson in a two page photo spread with a brief description.

If the District of Squamish wanted to place the same photo in the magazine, the district's trail coordinator informed a committee of the whole meeting Tuesday, it would have cost the district (US) $31,000.

Squamish trails, like Half-Nelson, have an enormous environmental, social, and economic value and the district of Squamish took a first step in recognizing that by discussing the Trails Master Plan at a committee of the whole meeting held this week.

The Trails Master Plan has been in the works for a few years now and by consulting other provincial and municipal plans, by creating an inventory of various trails in town, by classifying them, and by creating a structure for their upkeep, the district's trail coordinator Todd Pope finally came up with a plan that gives context and a framework to the existing Squamish trails.

"The master plan is to provide a comprehensive strategy for the ongoing development of our communitywide trail network," said Todd Pope.

The district's first step was itself fraught with a challenge since trails are built on crown land, private lands and district owned lands so creating a uniform plan for their maintenance can be an uphill task.

The master plan lays out some broad goals on the maintenance: to work collaboratively with all landowners and trail users, to develop policies to secure the provision of trails in new developments, to develop a system of signage and provide gateway trail head areas throughout the community.

It also plans to identify the best way to secure land tenure, barrier-free access requirements for some trails in trail development criteria, identify sustainable trail design and building practices, reduce liability and find ways to reduce conflict among user groups.

The district would also undertake an annual trail inspection program, aimed at correcting unsafe trail conditions, and restoring damaged trails.

There has been no decision yet on how the master plan for the trails would be funded, although the staff hinted that there would be some operational budget available for their upkeep.

"We will treat the trails maintenance like we treat the roads," said Cameron Chalmers, the district's planner.

Councillor Patricia Heintzman stressed the need for having a detailed outlay of the trail maps.

"We need a concrete and a visual presentation of these trails so that people are clear (about) what they are looking," she said.

Squamish trails have been maintained by volunteers, but with the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race (MOMAR) moving to Burnaby because of the $5 district fee, the idea that there needs to be some user fees has gained weight.

At their annual general meeting, Squamish Off-Road Cycling Association (SORCA) brainstormed about having a fee structure for trail users.

Squamish councillors will vote on the trails master plan at a forthcoming regular council meeting.