President’s Reports

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The Vancouver Island Trail – President’s Report for 2019/Spring 2020

 

2019 was an exciting year for us, appropriately falling on our 10-year anniversary as an Association – ten years of thousands of volunteer hours doing everything from building trail to building relationships. It’s such an honour for me to carry the flag that started with Past President Gil Parker all those years ago. Building trail continued on various sections, bringing our total to about 85% completion. Approximately 650 km of the route is passable, but requires improvement.  This assumes/includes the use of right of way along 60 km of the recently closed Englewood Logging Railway. Community members at Woss are major supporters in this regard.  The remaining 120 km will largely be through private forest lands.

 

Building relationships continues to be a top priority. Our most significant relationship has been nurtured with Mosaic Forest Management that manages the private forest lands of Timber West and Island Timberlands. Timber West demonstrated their support for trail development with a $150,000 gift to allow completion of the Great Trail on Vancouver Island by closing the ‘Malahat Gap’. Since we follow the Great Trail from Victoria to Lake Cowichan, completing this gap was very much to our advantage. Since then, Mosaic and VITA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (the details of which are confidential), and I’m happy to report that as a result of the MoU, Mosaic  loans us keys to their gates for the purpose of trail reconnaissance – a big step in the right direction! We are now concentrating on closing the two main gaps in the Trail across the private forest lands between the Alberni valley and Cumberland and between Strathcona Park and the Gold River Highway. Please stay posted by visiting our website where you’ll find hi-def maps, up-to-date trail conditions on our blog, and other information.  We hope you will support our cause and become a Friend of the VI Trail by making a small tax-deductible donation and/or by lending a hand.

 

Other relationships have been forged with several local and regional governments. Last June the Municipality of Oak Bay hosted an official opening of our South Trailhead at their Anderson Hill Park.  They’ve also installed our trail signs on their Centennial Trail 6X6 posts from Anderson Hill to the Victoria border. (I happened to be the champion of that trail back in 2006 as part of my urban Pemberton Trail initiative, creating a loop from the Inner Harbour to South Oak Bay).  In the meantime, the Capital Regional District has given us the go ahead to install signs right up to the border of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Just prior to the pandemic, the City of Victoria also gave us permission to sign.  We also have a great relationship with the Comox Valley Regional District, facilitating a land use agreement between them and Mosaic.

 

Approximately 80 signs have been installed as of May 2020, nearing half of what is needed.  Trail from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni is now in its best-ever condition following Spring 2020 maintenance. Many volunteer hours were needed to clear massive windfall from the historic storms of late December 2018.

 

Our Board of Directors decided to streamline the Association and focus on trail completion, acting more like a task force, a Working Board if you will. We were being pulled in many directions. We cut our membership to only the Directors, freeing up time to allow us to focus on trail building and utilizing the individual skills that each Director brings to the table. We are however actively seeking 2 or 3 more Directors. We know we need a First Nations liaison and a Communications Director, a social media type who can post a few times a month. Our vision includes a significant First Nations presence. We see cultural signage along the route explaining customs, language, art, religion, and traditional territories. Some folk have compared the VI Trail with the Camino de Santiago; although both are ‘epic’ hikes, I tell them “you’ll learn about the beliefs of 49 First Nations along the route, rather than just one”.

 

2020 promises more of the same drive to complete what will become a world class trail, despite the pandemic. Small groups who travel separately and can social distance during trail work have continued to do maintenance like clearing fallen trees and trimming back the ever-encroaching growth.  If you are a member of an outdoor/hiking club, you can help by organizing a small work party, hiking a trail section, or simply by spreading the word.  You can really help us out too, by going to our website and becoming a Friend of the VI Trail. Thank you for your support.

by Ken Milbrath, President, Vancouver Island Trail Association 


NOTE:  The Vancouver Island Trail was originally called the Vancouver Island Spine Trail and the association was referred to as VISTA (Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association).  We have left the terms VI Spine Trail, Spine Trail and VISTA in past newsletters and reports.


President’s Report – 2018

This past year has been a very successful year for VISTA. Success with securing over $65,000 in funds. Success with trail building of several sections to reach 80% completion of the 770 km long VI Trail. Success with building our brand for marketing purposes. Success with reorganizing our association to focus on the priorities to achieve trail completion. Success with facilitating discussions between Regional Districts and Timber West for public access over their lands. Success with First Nation interaction on the North Island.

VISTA’s finances were bolstered with $40,000 from the Province ($20,000 of which was gifted by the Outdoor Club of Victoria) and an additional $25,000 from 2 anonymous donors. This money will build some of the trail this year, as well as help build the brand out, but the near future will require more significant funding. An important initiative was the creation of the Friends of the VI Trail. We’re asking all supporters, volunteers, previous members, and the public to help us raise funds with tax deductible donations starting at just $25.

Probably the most significant change this past year was renaming the VI Spine Trail to simply The Vancouver Island Trail, to reflect the fact it will be, and always will be, THE largest trail on the Island, and to address some confusion over the old name. The association’s VISTA name will stay in place for the near future.

Our new distinctive logo was adopted and will soon be seen at various trailheads, trail junctions, and in marketing the trail. It was designed and gifted to us by Victoria based graphic artist Ron Cole.

VISTA’s website has also had significant updating and we welcome all to Google the Vancouver Island Trail and see where we’re at. We’ve also been active on Facebook and our Blog which many use to describe trail sections and their experiences. All trail sections are now on the site with maps, descriptions, and GPS way finding. We’re also in the process of building a Corporate Sponsor Page where we hope to establish reciprocal links with our corporate friends to piggyback on their marketing efforts, while giving them exposure to our audience.

Last year’s large donation from Timber West to complete the Malahat Gap of the Great Trail, and by default, close a gap in the VI Trail, has ushered in a refreshing new dialogue willing to discuss the possibility of allowing our footprints across their private forest lands. To this end we have facilitated the beginning of negotiations between the Comox Valley Regional District and Timber West’s Chief Forester. We hope this can be used as a template for all 7 Regional Districts the trail passes through.

Finally we have made much progress in our hopes to attract First Nations participation. Port MacNeill’s 35 km Suquash Trail being built with support of the Kwakiutl First Nation, will incorporate their art, culture, history, religion, and language along their section. We’re planning to build on this initiative and expand to include the entire VI Trail as a First Nations cultural exposition, attracting visitors from across the globe.

by Ken Milbrath, President, VISTA – presented at the Annual General Meeting May 31, 2018