2016 AGM Report

The Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association’s Annual General Meeting was held on March 9, 2016 at the Swan Lake Nature Sanctuary Nature House.  President, Gil Parker gave the following report.

  • Minutes from the AGM can be viewed here.
  • Financial statements can be viewed here.
  • Slides from Terry Lewis’ presenation can be viewed here.

Perhaps of greatest interest to all who are watching the progress of our trail, is a summary of the status, section by section from south to north. One very quickly realizes that this is a project of major proportions, even though existing trails are used for much of the route.

From Victoria to Lake Cowichan, a short section is a required to be built near the territorial boundary between the CRD and the CVRD, near Wrigglesworth Lake. Both regional districts have agreed to complete the work in 2016 for opening in 2017. This is to meet the schedule of the Trans Canada Trail, planned to complete by Canada’s 150th anniversary. VI Spine Trail follows the same route as the TCT as far as Lake Cowichan, about 130 km, which incidentally traverses the famous Kinsol trestle.

From Lake Cowichan to the west end of Cowichan Lake we have an obstacle of land access, primarily owned by private forestry companies, issues of which are being addressed. West of the lake, the Tuck Lake section to Francis Lake was built by VISTA volunteers in 2011, after contact with the council of Dididaht First Nation. This trail connects to the Runners Trail, built by members of the Tseshaht First Nation in 2012, in cooperation with the Alberni Clayoquot regional district (ACRD). Further connection to Port Alberni, called the Alberni Inlet Trail, has been completed over the years primarily by the Alberni Valley Outdoor Club, with some funding from VISTA. President Gil Parker and Director Dave Gilbert attended a formal opening of Stage 2 of the Alberni Inlet Trail in 2015.  Dave spoke on behalf of Vista. With minor maintenance requirements, this completes the trail from Cowichan Lake to north of Port Alberni, over 100 km.

The Beaufort Range involves private forestry land access issues. At the north end of the Beaufort Director Terry Lewis has led the construction of trails to Cumberland. Presently, trail access to Strathcona Park could follow mountain biking trails from Cumberland. The planned route across Strathcona Park uses existing trails past Circlet Lake, exiting near Harris Lake. From this point to the Strathcona dam, we have a feasibility study completed that also requires access to privately held land, mainly owned by forestry companies.

The section from Strathcona dam to Schoen Lake is primarily on logging roads, some disused and some semi-active, in areas considered to be traditional lands of First Nations belonging to the Nanwakolus Council. We require only one section of new trail approximately 3 km long, plus overall signage, to complete this 115km section. This will be our focus in 2016.

From the highway near Schoen Lake, across the Bonanza Range to the Nimpkish Lake is a future project over Crown land, probably involving several First Nations’ traditional territory. From the north end of Nimpkish Lake to Port Hardy we plan a further project on Crown land, but involving traditional territories of the ‘Namgis and Kwakiutl First Nations. We have had a good reception by middle managers but no acceptance (or denial) by elders. Vista has taken the decision to limit our activity on these lands to flagging and route planning until acceptance is confirmed by the First Nations involved. It is hoped that these two sections can be completed in 2016.

Currently, hikers and runners have travelled by commercial boat from Port Hardy to Shushartie Bay before completing the North Coast Trail to Cape Scott.

Eventually, a trail will connect to the North Coast Trail.

In summary, about 44% (320km) of the Trail is passable now, 24% (175km) is delayed because of access problems on private forestry land, and the remainder, 32% (235km) is planned to be finished within the next two years. Not all of the passable Trail is yet flagged, and usable maps still have to be completed

The Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association has formulated a Board organization document with detailed tasks for directors. The Board has added the position of Project Coordinator to assist in administration, naming Caroline Williams, Courtenay, to the position. Ken Milbrath was named as Director midway through the year, and has assumed leadership to develop access to First Nations’ traditional territories.

VISTA continues to work towards gaining access through privately owned forests. We are planning high-level contacts in these companies, and relying on the successes such as the Cumberland agreement negotiated by the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) to permit access to private lands.

We have developed a Sponsorship Package for use in raising significant funds, and we plan a meeting after the AGM with a professional fundraiser. Director Peter Berrang, is leading the fundraising initiative.

To improve the quality of our website and to reduce cost, the Board has changed from Nation Builder to WordPress in 2016.  This effort was led by Jodi Appleton, with assistance from Ross Collicutt. We have formalized our document storage using Google Drive, and narratives have been added for many new sections of the Trail, referenced to maps on the website.

All field operations have been under direction of Director Terry Lewis, Courtenay, who has not only led negotiations with contractors, forestry licensees, and First Nations, but has also spearheaded the building of significant trails south from Cumberland to the north end of the Beaufort Range. Terry will give a visual picture of some of the challenges of trail building in the North Island following the meeting.

The Vista Board would like to thank retiring director Jodi Appleton for expertise related to outdoor recreation, and her hosting of Board meetings. The entire Board of Vista is to be congratulated on their individual initiatives and efforts, especially Vice President Bill Feyrer, who has taken care of all financial matters, including reports to CRA to maintain our ability to offer tax receipts to donors, and has assisted me by conducting business meetings for most of the year.