The Cariboo Regional District (CRD) is applying for federal funding to complete three new low mobility trail network projects in the region, including a section on the 108 Mile Greenbelt.
CRD directors last month approved a request from staff to submit an application for $336,000 to the Canada Infrastructure Program for trail development. The locations include the 108 Greenbelt, Pioneer Park on Dragon Lake near Quesnel, and the Esler Sports Complex just outside of Williams Lake. The combined projects will provide about eight kilometres of trail works, along with improvements for parking, signage, toilets and potentially wheelchair-friendly fishing platforms.
“The Regional District has embraced creating a wheelchair accessible trails network in the Cariboo Chilcotin to increase outdoor recreation opportunities for people of all mobility levels and to create a niche market for tourism to help diversify the local economy,” Darron Campbell, CRD community services manager, said in a presentation to the board.
The proposed low mobility upgrades to the 108 Greenbelt include two-and-a-half kilometres of improved trail. The project calls for constructing the trail to low mobility standards, installation of four new or replacement outhouses, a look-out platform and widening of the trail for benches every 300 metres, with seven benches total.
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The work would expand improvements already done on sections around 108 Lake and Sepa Lake, which was recently widened and resurfaced.
“One of the things, when we first upgraded these trails and smoothed them out a bit is that people said they felt much safer, they weren’t tripping over anything,” said Ron Soeder, of the 108 Greenbelt Commission. “A lot of us are getting up in age. You find you can move more comfortably; it’s easier to walk on the trail without looking down and measuring every step. You enjoy the scenery more. It’s just a more comfortable trail overall.”
Soeder said while the Greenbelt isn’t like the Seawall in Vancouver, counters on the trail have shown a surprisingly high number of users in the past. This past weekend, for instance, drew a fair number of cyclists, runners and dog walkers, including Chelsea Mahovlich, who was out with her one-and-a-half-year-old son Jackson and friend Lyndsay Becker.
Mahovlich, who moved to the 108 from Coquitlam five years ago, said she enjoys taking advantage of the trails and the outdoor lifestyle in the 108. She and her husband decided to move her because they wanted their son to grow up in nature. Now there’s no way she would go back to the city, she said.
“Between Sepa and the 108 Trail we try to go out a couple of times a month,” she said. “The trail itself seems a bit bigger, it’s way smoother. I definitely prefer the trail and walking around the lake. It’s quieter and more scenic.”
Al Richmond, Director for Lac La Hache-108 Mile, agreed the initial improvements, particularly around Sepa Lake have been well received, particularly among young moms with strollers. “It keeps them off the road and safe,” he said.
The Commission manages the 1,500-acre Greenbelt for the unincorporated 108 community, doing work such as fuel management by clearing out bug kill or deadfalls.
“It’s surprising how many people do walk those trails at times,” Soeder said. ‘For a community our size we’re quite happy to see there’s a lot of use.”
The CRD said external funding from the Government of British Columbia, Northern Development Initiative Trust and Cariboo Strong has resulted in 25 wheelchair accessible wilderness trails being completed since 2008. Three more are currently in development in 2020 with $130,000 in support from Rural Dividend and NDIT grants.”
Campbell said the three new proposed trail projects for the CCR grant program would be significantly larger in scope than previous projects completed by the CRD, but with the same low-mobility, universal access concept.
The total cost for the three projects is $458,200, and the remainder of the funding will come from the North, Central, and South Cariboo Recreation Leisure Service 2021 budget.
With a file from Angie Mindus