The Kimberley Trail Society (KTS) and the Kimberley Nature Park Society (KNPS) are requesting ongoing City support for trails maintenance in the form of $100,000 and the hiring of a Trails Manager.
Brett Price, Director of KTS and Chris Ferguson, Director of KNPS presented their request at a regular City Council meeting on Monday, Nov. 27.
Price says that Council has always been very supportive with ongoing projects related to Kimberley trails, however this request for ongoing support is “all about maintenance”.
Only a few volunteers currently look after the trails, says Price, and they need more volunteers to complete the maintenance that is required. Not only that, but Ferguson says that the few volunteers who are maintaining the trails are starting to get burnt out.
“While the Nature Park Society does have sort of a core group of die hard volunteers, it’s a tiny number of people that have been doing the vast majority of the work for these past eight years,” said Ferguson. “Whether it’s clearing trails, raking and clearing them back at the beginning of the season, dealing with sustainability issues; there’s always more than we have the man power to deal with.
“We are blessed in Kimberley with all of these trails but one thing we don’t have is the best geology. Between climate change and having really dry summers like we just had; when the ground dries up then the rocks start to pop out a little more, and with heavier use that amplifies these effects. We just don’t have the typical soil. Maintenance, even with the most sustainably built trails in the first place, is an ongoing issue. As trails get more popular, that adds a little extra wear and tear. We’re looking for some assistance from a professional who would be focused on this.”
Price says that volunteers will still be doing the “lions share of the work forever” but 30 to 50 volunteers are realistically needed to maintain the current trail network. With regular and reliable funding to hire a full-time employee, says Price, they would not only be able to find more volunteers, but organize their efforts better as well.
KTS and KNPS currently manage over 150 kilometres of local trails, which are free, highly accessible city infrastructure, says Price.
“The trails are used by most Kimberley residents for various uses including dog walking, hiking, biking etc,” Price said. “They are a critical drawing card for new residents, tourists and events to ensure prosperity for the city, its residents and businesses.
“The trails directly contribute to health, wealth, happiness and well-being. The use of trails exceeds that of pools, rinks and fields which receive regular funding and similar resort towns provide yearly funding toward a full time trail manager. Council has a responsibility (as per the City website) to consider the well-being and interests of the City and contribute to the development of programs of the City respecting its services and other activities.
Price says that although trail maintenance is not free, it is great value, “dollars are leveraged through external grants as well as the large volunteer workforce. Investing in trail maintenance is a logical and responsible use of tax dollars.”
The funding requests are as follows: a commitment of yearly City funding of $30K to support a part-time professional trail crew to assist volunteers with maintenance, signage and improvements.
In-kind support of $20K (e.g. machines and labour) to build staging areas and concrete pit toilets at the Bootleg Area Recreation Site and a pit toilet at the Nordic Centre.
Support in lobbying RDEK to provide $15 per household (Approximately $60K) so that they can hire a full time trails director. Price says this is consistent with other regional districts, for example, Rossland receives $100K per year.
Mayor Don McCormick says that the RDEK does put money into trails in the region, for example Rails to Trails, and that the City should explore the option of asking the RDEK for support.
Councillor Darryl Oakley asked if $100,000 a year for 170 kilometres of trails is sustainable, to which Ferguson says that five people currently do 90 per cent of the tree clearing on the trails, which is not sustainable.
Councillor Bev Middlebrook says that the numbers don’t add up, “you have thousands of people using the trails, lots of trails, and yet only a few people doing the volunteer work. I know it’s hard getting volunteers out, but if there’s that many people using the trails there should be a lot more people volunteering.”
“I believe a lot more people will,” said Price, “but it takes that person to recruit [them]. The problem is that we’re just trying to keep our head above water. What we should be doing is being proactive and having a campaign that will attract and recruit those people. We need regular and ongoing recruiting to change this reality.”
With a full-time manager, they will be able to hire more volunteers and organize their efforts better, explained Price.
Councillor Sandra Roberts “played the devil’s advocate” and asked if Kimberley perhaps has too many trails. Price responded saying that Kimberley’s trail network is still smaller than communities of similar sizes, and that as a resort town with a lot of tourism, the trails should be a priority.
“2000 plus members and trail users are coming together. This is a big group of established trail users that is asking for your help,” said Price.
Council voted to refer the request to the City budget for consideration.