As the sun peeked over the mountaintops Monday morning above Chief Will-Yum Campground just south of Williams Lake, there was excitement in the air.
Williams Lake First Nation Chief Willie Sellars, joined by James Doerfling of Jimco Services, Thomas Schoen, CEO of First Journey Trails, and Sugar Cane Archeology’s Marvin Bob, broke ground on a new vision for the nation to bring members onto the land through recreational mountain biking and hiking.
Monday morning’s ceremony — led by traditional drumming and singing from community member David Archie — was to kickoff the construction of a multi-use connector trail joining the Chief Will-Yum Campground to the Sugar Cane community across Highway 97.
Phase one of the project will see the construction of a 1,750-metre hiking and biking trail.
“It’s about getting people out onto the land, and how important that is, which has become very apparent during COVID,” Sellars told the Tribune. “And it’s starting with this trail here … this is part of a really cool vision and I couldn’t be more excited. Mountain biking is going to be a valuable tool for us — getting people out onto the land and doing physical activity — incorporating other things into our culture and tradition.”
Doerfling, a professional, world-class mountain biker now turned trail builder, is heading up the machine-built construction of the trail, while Schoen is managing the project.
Once complete, the single-track trail will be suitable for all types of bicycles and will also allow for winter snowshoe or fatbike activities. The trail will also include some additional infrastructure, including a viewing deck.
Doerfling said the bi-directional trail will be constructed as a green, or beginner, trail, with dirt features that will make it fun for advanced mountain bikers, as well. Construction time will be roughly eight to 10 weeks.
The trailhead, equipped with parking access, will act as a launching pad for future gravity flow trails and a mountain biking trail network to connect to, with even the potential for a commuter trail stretching to 150 Mile House.
Schoen, a longtime trail builder, himself, said following the devastation of the 2017 wildfires and the destruction of some of the mountain biking trails in the area, the project marks a new beginning.
“These trails have such a profound impact on community members and non-community members,” Schoen said.
The trail also puts into motion the results of a comprehensive community master trail plan for WLFN.
“We circulated a survey to collect stakeholder input from WLFN community members,” Schoen said, noting an overwhelming majority of community members thought new trails would enhance their quality of life.
“We are following their recommendations and this new trail is a step in creating a much larger trail network in and around the T’exelc community.”
Schoen said he’s been involved in trail development for the WLFN for years, and noted it was sad to lose three popular trails in 2017 wildfires.
“Starting to rebuild and create additional trails is something I’m excited and passionate about,” he said.
Also on Monday, April 19, Red Shred’s Bike and Board Shed’s Mark Savard delivered 10 new bikes purchased by WLFN for its recreation department.
There to meet the new bikes’ arrival were several youth from the community, who each took turns taking the bikes for a spin at Sugar Cane.
The children were thrilled with the new bikes, as was WLFN councillor Shawna Philbrick.
“Having a program like this and getting the kids out in the summertime is huge, especially during this pandemic. Being stuck inside all day is no fun,” said Philbrick, as children circled around her on bikes. “This is an amazing opportunity and we’re so proud of our recreation (team) for bringing this in.”
Sellars added the long-term goal is to build a network of trails that members can use for running, walking, hiking and riding as a springboard to finding additional ways to keep youth active and busy.