Trail systems in the Cariboo Chilcotin have received a shot in the arm from the Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development’’s Recreation Program to the tune of about $1.3 million.
One of the recipients, the Cariboo Regional District, will receive $410,250 to develop or expand wheelchair accessible wilderness trails.
“The funds will cover 75 per cent of the projects and we’ve applied to Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Committee and Northern Development Initiative Trust to cover the rest,” CRD chair Al Richmond says, adding the CRD is trying to access as much grant money for the Cariboo as it can.
Additional support will also come in the form of in-kind work that community groups involved with each particular trail will contribute.
There’ll be a combination of hiring local contractors, sourcing from local suppliers, and a considerable amount of volunteer work, Richmond explains.
Many of those groups have done preliminary work, but will now be able to do more detailed work now that they know how much money they will have to work with.
Community groups benefiting from the funds in the vicinity of Williams Lake are the Lac La Hache Community Club (Felker Homestead Garlic Festival Trail), Horsefly River Roundtable (Salmon Spawning Trail), Gavin Lake Forest Education Society (Gavin Lake River Mouth), Alexis Creek Community Services Society (Bull Canyon and Alexis Creek), Likely Chamber of Commerce (Quesnel Forks and Bullion Pit Lookout), Friends of Churn Creek/Canoe Creek Band (Churn Creek Protected Area) and Russet Bluff Comm. Assoc./Williams Lake Band (Russet Bluff/Sugar Cane Forest).
Other groups falling under the same application include Parkland Recreation Commission, 108 Greenbelt Commission, Hun City Bike Club, Roe Lake and District Rec. Commission, Friends of Barkerville, Cariboo Ski Touring Club and Bouchie Lake Recreation.
The project will see the widening of trails, reduction of steep grades, improvement of trail surfaces, brush clearing, installation of wheelchair accessible benches, picnic tables and outhouses.
“The best part of this thing is that it’s communities from the south Cariboo right through to the north Cariboo. There are a variety of recipients and it’s a great opportunity to share that money throughout the region,” Richmond says, adding he has also received calls from many young moms with babes in strollers who also really appreciate using the wheelchair accessible trails that are already in place.
Cariboo MLA Donna Barnett was in Williams Lake Monday to let media know about the funding announcement. She says the funds are part of a $30 million dollar grant program announced by the premier in the fall.
“We were very successful in the Cariboo and received four grants — three in my riding — one for Williams Lake for $550,640 to extend the city’s river valley network through the development of an underpass to link the trail system to the Stampede Ground’s Equestrian trail system,” Barnett says,
The current layout of that trail system does not provide access to all parts of the trails.
The new connection will result in more than 16 kilometres of trail extending from the Stampede Grounds to the Fraser River, greatly enhancing its utilization.
Mayor Kerry Cook says she remembers very well when council was at UBCM in September and Premier Christy Clark announced the funding opportunity.
“We were wondering as a community what projects we should put forward,” Cook recalls.
“I’m very excited we were one of 98 successful applicants,” Cook says. “It’s great news for our community.”
The funds from the province will cover 80 per cent of the cost of underpass link — council has committed the other 20 per cent, which is $138,000.
Improved access to the River Valley will promote pedestrian transportation and a healthy lifestyle via a trail that is accessible to people of any level of ability, Cook adds.
Barnett also announced that 100 Mile House received $280,000 for improvement to the Bridge Creek trails in the city’s park, while Wells received $49,084 to upgrade the community’s curling rink.
Barnett says the funding will be good for residents and for tourists.
Without the funding, she says, communities would have to increase taxes to get any trail improvements done.
“Anything we can get and gain is wonderful news,” Barnett adds.