Back Country Horsemen of BC volunteers get ready to work on a bridge in the Wildwood Forest last summer. From left to right: Susan Mendonca

Back Country Horsemen of BC volunteers get ready to work on a bridge in the Wildwood Forest last summer. From left to right: Susan Mendonca

Helping hands of BC Horsemen contribute to trail expansion

Terri Perrin

Submitted to the Record

The old saying “many hands make light work” certainly rings true when it comes to multi-use recreational trail development in British Columbia.

Just ask Sharon Pickthorne, chair of the North Vancouver Island (NVI) chapter of Back Country Horsemen of BC (BCHBC).

An avid equestrian who logs hundreds of hours on horseback every year, Pickthorne can recall dozens of examples across the province where communication and collaboration with local governments has opened new opportunities for trail riders and ensured an on-going ‘right to ride’ in local parks and green spaces. But it is the trails here in the Comox Valley that Pickthorne, and fellow BCHBC members, are most proud of.

“Back Country Horsemen of BC has been successfully working with the Comox Valley Regional District  for many years, starting with the historic One Spot Trail project in the Comox Valley in 2008/2009,” explains Pickthorne. “This honest and open working relationship has proven to be beneficial to both of us.

“The NVI chapter was entrusted to develop one-third of the One Spot Trail, under the CVRD’s strict engineering and environmental requirements, of course. We submitted a budget, sourced the materials and equipment, and then supplied the volunteer labour to complete the project. I feel a great sense of pride when I ride by the big sign where the CVRD posted the names of all of the volunteers, thanking us for our efforts.”

This past summer, the well-used trail was expanded, in co-operation with local landowners and the CVRD.

“Another example, one of our local riders recently requested that the surface of a bridge within the local Wildwood Forest be changed,” adds Pickthorne. “The footing was slippery and unsafe for horses. The CVRD contacted us and said that they would supply materials if we could do the work. The project was completed by a handful of volunteers in an afternoon.”

Over the years, BCHBC-NVI has not only provided the CVRD with a steady, reliable ‘go-to’ organization of volunteers, its members are often asked for their input to help make decisions about horses on all trails through the CVRD’s park system. They’ve collaborated on everything from building bridges, to decisions about the best footing for trail surfaces, horse trailer parking, signage, safety, trail hazards and more. The trail riders were also considered in the development of the 20-year master plan for Seal Bay Park.

The Back Country Horsemen were also recently consulted on the creation of signage for the Royston to Cumberland Trail, to help identify hazards and trail conditions of special interest to equestrians.

The pay-off for trail riders? The CVRD has been extremely generous in providing equestrians better and safer access to local trails, even going so far as to install outhouses with hitching rails in some parks.

Brian Allaert, parks technician with the Comox Valley Regional District, states that BCHBC members have been instrumental in helping determine where trails need to be established or improved, and with the design of the trails, bridges, and gates, to ensure that horses can get by without difficulties.

“Their members have also been great in helping with new projects, such as the bridge in Wildwood Forest that Sharon talks about, as well as the on-going maintenance with brushing and clearing of trails,” continues Allaert. “Their contribution of time ensures that we get projects done sooner. Their input in the design process ensures that, when we do build something; we are getting it right the first time and horse and rider safety is considered.

“I appreciate how well organized the Back Country Horsemen are,” concludes Allaert. “We really value the partnership we have with them.”

•••

To learn more about Back Country Horsemen of BC, visit their website at www.bchorsemen.com or call Sharon Pickthorne 250-337-1818.

 

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