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Fraser Valley: Connecting the dots

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
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It happens to trail users from time-to-time: A trail they’ve used only a couple of weeks before, suddenly ends at a new construction site.

Whether it’s due to poor planning or a lack of communication, trails are sometimes lost in the mix. But more and more, developers are realizing the vested community interest in trails, and Fraser’s Andy Miller, a longtime trails enthusiast, is hoping to work with those developers to further improve on the Fraser Valley’s trail system.

Miller, who has been a member of the Fraser Valley Partnership for Trails board for 10 years, proposed to resign from the all-volunteer board and be hired back as a professional planning director. As a paid staff member, he feels he can take on the list of projects that the FVPT has proposed but does not have the resources or members to accomplish.

“It’s an all-volunteer board. We have a really tough time getting things accomplished,” Miller said. “All volunteer boards have similar trouble. People are really busy.”

Miller, who has been a Fraser resident for 33 years, made a budget proposal to the towns of Fraser and Winter Park, and Grand Park subdivision, to fund his effort for next year. Miller estimates he’ll work roughly seven to 10 hours a week.

“When a subdivision is planned and a trail is involved, hopefully I’ll be the person who’ll see what needs to happen to preserve trail access,” Miller said.

By being paid on an hourly basis, Miller feels he can tackle the list of five to six projects the board has proposed, and address the issue of trails “disappearing” during the development process.

“Who takes care of that, when trails disappear?” Miller asked. “We need someone to address (lost trails) before it happens, during the planning stages.”

Gary McGraw, coordinator for trails and the Adopt-a-Trail program for the U.S. Forest Service, said Miller’s proposal would play an important role in the Valley’s trail system, and encouraged Miller to move ahead. By coordinating with town councils and developers, McGraw said developers could allot for open space and trails that connect, “instead of it being an afterthought.”

The forest service isn’t in the position to do the things Miller is proposing to do, such as working with town councils and developers on these issues, he added.

“Overall, whether it’s the FVPT or the Headwaters Trails Alliance, we have more people out there building trails and uniting all trial systems in Grand County together, and I think that’s a good thing,” he said. “Our authority is limited to the forest, so we need these partners to connect the various pieces off of forest land. These groups can definitely help the forest service in getting all the dots connected.”

Another project Miller plans to become involved with is the Fraser Valley Trails master plan, which takes into account existing trails and ways to tie those trails together and connect them with the surrounding communities. He also hopes to integrate the “illegal” trails into the Valley’s legal trail system, and is pushing for some type of funding mechanism to address the maintenance of trails in a professional matter, he said.

Overall, Miller hopes to somewhat mirror what other mountain bike communities have done to improve their trails, such as Blackcomb, Whistler, which is rated among the top mountain bike areas. Miller has visited Whistler three times because of his two teenage sons, and said he is very impressed with the resort’s mountain bike trail system.

“They have a trails planner that works full-time ” the trails are beautiful, and they do a spectacular job. We want to work toward that. We feel as a nonprofit, we can step into this void and at least get it started.”

Miller has begun drafting a master plan for trails, he said, and is reviewing subdivision plans and local trail planning. He has applied to the Winter Park, Fraser and Grand Park for $4,500 each to help further his efforts.

“Trails are as important as roads, as far as I’m concerned,” Miller asid. “They’re a way we keep citizens healthy, a way to get around, attract visitors, and it’s an economic engine. And, in the end, it’s a benefit to the environment.”

Miller plans to work toward connecting Winter Park Ranch to Rendezvous. The two subdivisions are close together, but without a trail to connect the two, one has to go 5.5 miles from one to the other, Miller said.

“When planning isn’t done well, you have these situations,” he said. “There’s been no agency to look out for that, and it’s really a simple thing.”

Jeff Durbin, town planner for the town of Fraser and president of the Headwaters Trails Alliance, said the Town of Fraser has decided whether it will award Miller the funds he requested. However, Durbin feels Miller’s proposed projects “are good for the Valley” ” as long as there is open communication.

“As president of the HTA, we need to make sure that his work supports and is consistent with what HTA is working on, so we’re not duplicating (projects),” Durbin said.

“Andy is passionate about trails, and he knows how to get stuff done. I’m glad they’re taking this initiative.”

” To reach Stephanie Miller, call (970) 887-3334, ext. 19601 or e-mail smiller@grandcountynews.com.


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