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South Cariboo First Nation integrates heritage, recreation in trails master plan

Plan will provide guidance for further trail development to connect the territory
Jonathan Visscher of 100 Mile House high-fives Chief Hank Adam, elder Clara Camille and Dora Demers, who was the economic development officer for SXFN when the trail project began before heading up Stairway to Heaven, a mountain bike or hiking trail up Jesmond Mountain near Clinton which opened in 2022. (Ruth Lloyd photo - Black Press Media)

Stswecem’c Xget’tem First Nation (SXFN, previously known as Dog Creek/Canoe Creek First Nations) has created a SXFN Heritage Master Trail Plan, combining heritage and recreation.

The community-wide trail network combined both community knowledge of heritage places and plans for recreational trail development.

Dora Demers, who was the community’s economic development coordinator when the project began, said she had worked with First Journey Trails, the local trail-building company which developed the plan, back when she worked for Xatsull First Nation.

She saw the work the company did for Xatsull building a mountain bike trail network and thought something like it might benefit her home community when she returned to work there.

When a funding opportunity came up, she approached Thomas Schoen of First Journey, and they applied for the funds and did the first phase of some mountain biking trails in 2020. They then worked to secure more funding for the master trails plan work.

Demers said the community aims to continue to doing trails throughout their territory and connect to neighbouring communities as well.

While many historic trails have been taken over by roadways, the community aims to preserve and utilize the trails they do still have and create more to help better connect their territory and the people to the land base, whether on foot, mountain bike or horseback.

Thomas Schoen of First Journey Trails, who completed the plan, said it was a unique project for the company because the trail planner who worked on the project actually lived in the area for the duration of the plan development, getting to hear from some of the community and leadership.

“I think that it’s such a great model,” said Schoen.

His employee, Adéle Nicolas, originally from France, lived at the Big Bar Guest Ranch for the duration. She said the experience gave her an introduction to the First Nations community and culture.

“I learned so much,” said Nicolas, noting she did not even know about this beautiful and unique part of B.C. before going there for the position.

The plan itself is actually made up of two documents in order to distinguish between the inventory of existing and planned mountain bike trails at the Big Bar Guest Ranch and the heritage trails and locations around the two communities of Dog Creek and Canoe Creek. The final plan is not a public document, in order to maintain the integrity of the heritage locations. This allows the community to have oversight over those places and limit potential access to some sacred or historic cultural sites.

The 100-page document is aimed at helping the community create a combined vision for a community trail network while also providing some documentation of heritage sites and includes plans for trails to better connect the two communities of Dog Creek and Canoe Creek.

Though the traditional territory of SXFN is vast, extending to the Big Creek Area west of the Fraser River, south to Carpenter Lake, 100 Mile House and Lac La Hache to the east of SXFN and to Alkali Lake to the north, the Heritage Trails Master Plan focused on the direct surroundings of the two communities. The area is about 400 square kilometres, where members live.

Schoen said working so closely for so long allows the company and staff to develop a close relationship with the community.

READ MORE: Trail opening spiritually and economically important moment for southern Cariboo First Nation

READ MORE: Agreement to purchase ranch reunites First Nation in Cariboo with traditional lands

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Ruth Lloyd

About the Author: Ruth Lloyd

After moving back to Williams Lake, where I was born and graduated from school, I joined the amazing team at the Williams Lake Tribune in 2021.
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