Views descending to the Fraser River while traversing through forested and open areas are there for the taking on a new mountain biking and hiking trail at Soda Creek.
The trail, which has expert biking features and opened with a community celebration Wednesday, is bound to promote exercise and a connection to the land for locals and visitors.
“It is a really exciting day for us,” Xat’sull Chief Donna Dixon said before the ribbon cutting. “A lot of work has gone into this project.”
Work began on the trail in April of this year with community members under the direction of project manager Thomas Schoen of First Journey Trails.
“This 2.4 kilometre trail we opened today is the first phase,” Schoen said. “We start working on the second phase of the trail from Blue Lake on Monday and that will add almost another four kilometers and connect with this one.”
While the first phase had more restrictions because of land ownership, in comparison, the Blue Lake portion of the trail will be like working on a blank canvas, Schoen added.
Acknowledging the efforts of the trail builders, Dixon said these projects are important because members can give back to the community.
Lead hand Krista Phillips said she loved working with the crew and was happy to see so many people out for the trail opening.
“I am enjoying what is happening right now,” Phillips said on the shuttle bus ride back up the hill. “Our community members are out here having fun together.”
Brent Rutherford, secretary of New Pathways to Gold Society, one of the trail’s funders, said the new trail project has been refreshing.
“It is wonderful to see projects come to fruition. You can look down the Cariboo highway and see lots of projects that started with lots of glamour and noise and then went nowhere,” he said. “This trail project has been wonderful.”
Xat’sull economic development co-ordinator Miriam Schilling played a big role in driving it forward, he added.
Xat’sull community member Cheryl Chapman is the First Nations co-chair of New Pathways.
She echoed Rutherford in her praise of the project, adding an historical and spiritual context to its importance.
“We are the most northern Secwepemc community and sometimes I think the impact of the gold rush from 1858 right through 1863 and beyond on Soda Creek was disguised in a lot of ways because our community has thrived,” Chapman said. “Our community was instrumental in making the gold rush a success.”
Any project in the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast that connects with the gold rush trails is a link to First Nations history, traditions, cultures and spirit trails, Chapman added.
“We know historically these trails were used by the ancestors to get to those spiritual places in our territories not only to connect us to those spiritual places, to our food source which is the Fraser River, but also to our Creator who greets us every morning.”
Northern Development Initiative Trust representative Margo Wagner congratulated the community for its hard work and success in making the project happen.
“These trails are not only asset for the local community, they are an asset to everybody that comes through here on Highway 97,” Wagner said.
“I am hoping by having these trails now available here it will enable more local and faraway tourists stop and to take advantage of this great facility.”