Despite Rural Dividend funds being directed towards communities affected by mill closures in 2019, a $100,000 application for wheelchair accessible wilderness trails was approved as “an important economic development and recovery project related to the COVID-19 situation.”
“I was surprised for the approval from the province,” says Cariboo Regional District (CRD) Manager of Community Services Darron Campbell. “We hadn’t expected to receive an approval from the province for the initial funding of a $100,000.”
The South Cariboo Joint Committee (SCJC) voted on May 13 to provide $30,000 in matching funding through Cariboo Strong funding, which originated as a $133,000 contribution from the Cariboo Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition.
“That one I wasn’t surprised because that program was specifically targetted within the region at projects like this.”
The three chosen locations are in Forest Grove, the Mountain Spruce Community Park and the Valentine Lake recreation site.
“These three trails were identified in part because we’ve invested in 25 projects across the region and we needed some more in the South Cariboo. We were looking for an even distribution, recognize the value in all areas of the region. Some areas were underrepresented, so we specifically went looking for good locations in the South Cariboo.”
The project is specifically aimed at rural areas and not, for example, downtown trails, as there are other ways to achieve those, says Campbell.
“We’re trying to allow persons of low mobility into very unique remote locations.”
One of the keys for the trails is a good solid surface that you can roll wheels on, says Campbell. There’ll be accessible outhouses, clear signage, no danger of getting lost, benches and accessible picnic tables, so that people in wheelchairs or with strollers can use them.
“They’re very well-used facilities and I think we’ve always had great success building them around the regions.”
They use trail counters at times and the numbers they get are amazing, says Campbell. The lake trail at the 108 greenbelt gets thousands of users a month as does the Gavin Lake forest camp in the summer, says Campbell.
“It’s just fantastic how inviting these trails are.”
They’re hoping to get one of the three done this summer and all three will need to be complete by the end of summer 2021, he says.
The Forest Grove and District Recreation Society, the Mountain Spruce Community Centre Society and Rec Sites and Trails BC will be the community partners to support ongoing maintenance.
The project will still need final approval by the CRD board but as multiple CRD members sit on the SCJC approval is likely.