Massive trail revamping begins in Fraser Valley: Project working on 38 trail developments
Hikers and mountain bikers can rejoice as new trails are coming to the Fraser Valley.
Ground broke Thursday on the Sulphur Ranger District Trails Smart Sizing Project, following a decision by the U.S. Forest Service to approve 18 miles of new trail construction in the Winter Park and Fraser areas.
The project comes as a result of years of collaboration between the forest service and Headwaters Trails Alliance, and will spearhead the alliance’s master plan. The trail construction will be completed in phases over the next five to 10 years and will cost upwards of $1 million.
“The Trail Smart Funding Project is essentially about improving trail connectivity between the separate trail systems in the Winter Park and Fraser area,” said Meara McQuain, president of the Headwaters Trails Alliance. “As well as improving the overall sustainability of the trails themselves in terms of maintenance.
“But we also want to focus on environmental sustainability. A lot of the project is focused on improving habitat for wildlife, protecting riparian zones, and protecting water sheds in the creek.”
Planning for the project began in 2013 as the Headwaters Trails Alliance began working on trail improvement projects on the U.S. Forest Service Sulphur Ranger District Land. A master trails plan for the Fraser Valley was completed by the alliance in 2015. About 80 percent of the trails detailed in the master plan were accepted by the forest service.
The project is made up of 38 different trail developments, including the rerouting of several trails, as well as numerous new ones. They will be focused on expanding and connecting areas of the Leland Creek Trail System, St. Louis Creek System, Elk Creek System and Vasquez Creek System. Construction on the Ute Creek Trail System has been deferred for a year to study wildlife migratory patterns in the area.
McQuain said there would also be several improvements to established trails, connecting them to different trails systems or creating alternate routes to natural landmarks.
“It will also allow for different trail features,” said McQuain. “If we have a trail that’s intermediate level, and there’s an interesting rock feature on the side of it, we’ll create a line going to that. So then now we can have a blue-black feature which, for an advanced rider, will make it a more interesting and unique experience.”
The plan is to complete seven trails this year, starting with the Twin Bridges Trail in Winter Park.
The towns of Winter Park and Fraser are primarily funding the first segment of the project, for about $120,000. McQuain said that about $750,000 of the $1 million price tag will be used on the actual construction of trails, while the remaining funds will be used to create informational kiosks and signage for the trails.
Funding is not complete, however.
The alliance plans to apply for a state trails grant in November, and will also ask Fraser and Winter Park to allocate similar levels of funding for the next segment of the project, according to McQuain.
Over the last year-and-a-half, the alliance has been participating in public outreach programs to integrate public comment into the planning of the project.
“Essentially we’re hopeful that because that public outreach process was so thorough that the public feels that they were engaged,” she said, “and ultimately the result is a trail system that everyone can agree is better for the environment and provides a better overall experience.”
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