Trail enthusiasts across Quesnel and its surrounding area can look forward to some very exciting months ahead according to Ian van Leusden, trail coordinator for the City of Quesnel.
The young man gave a thorough, well-received presentation of the outlook for the North Cariboo Trails Development Project at the North Cariboo Joint Planning Community meeting on Tuesday (Jan. 15).
While the previous year has been filled with planning and design, he is excited for 2019 to be a year where shovel meets soil.
“In 2019 we should see about eight and a half kilometres of new trail development on Dragon Mountain,” he said in an interview in the Observer office.
“It will primarily be a climbing line to improve safety and trail standards out there.
“As well, we will build approximately six to six and a half kilometres of trails on Wonderland, which will double to existing trail network up there.”
He passionately describes the progress Quesnel trails have seen since the city and Cariboo Regional District secured grant funding from the Rural Dividend Program in January of 2018.
“We got Thomas Schoen of First Journey Trail to complete a trail master plan that we could produce to Recreation Sites and Trails BC and BC parks.
“To show them the future initiatives and to get them to sign off on the project has been a huge success.”
He added the Quesnel-based Gold Rush Cycling Club is ecstatic.
“They have a lot of work ahead of them in 2019 to bring some of these existing trails up to standard but they are an amazing group of volunteers that will get the job done,” he said.
The club recently received a grant from Quesnel Community Foundation to do a signage plan in the Wonderland area.
“They are looking to add appropriate signage to make the trails safer for users and increase the way-finding opportunities, so you’re not getting lost in the woods up there.”
One of the key themes of the presentation is connectivity.
“We have all known and loved the Quesnel Riverfront Trail System for decades and we all utilize it almost daily and we’re in a unique situation where we can develop branches off of it,” he said.
Ideally, local and visiting cyclists will have the ability to start on the riverfront and exit in multiple directions and then come back to the downtown core.
“We’re looking at other trail initiatives in West Fraser Timber Park as well as in the Lhtako Dene First Nation. So developing these spouts off of the riverfront trail and then returning back to the city centre where people can eat, sleep and play continually.”
He said he is particularly interested in working with the Lhtako Dene people further on improving the trail system on their band’s lands south of Quesnel.
“I think it would be really beneficial for the community of Quesnel and the Lhtako Dene Nation.
“It is a wonderful area that overlooks the Fraser river and would provide great opportunities for hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers as well as the First Nations youth and elders to get out and reconnect with nature and the outdoors.”
Another possible initiative, of which there are many, includes expanding on the recent work done at the South Hills park.
Last July, the College of New Caledonia Trail Design Program built approximately 70 metres of community based trail in the park as their final project.
Van Leusden says the City is looking at building upon that 70 metres with up to another kilometre worth of trails and perhaps building a small pump track in the grassy area closer to Quesnel Hydraulic Road.
“It would really promote development of core mountain bike skills for kids all the way up to expert riders,” he said of the pump track, which would be a a pair of berms sandwiching multiple rollers, where riders would “pump” up and down on their handlebars to try and keep momentum without pedalling.
“It’s something that can be utilized by any age group and improves mountain biking skills or just cycling skills in general and it would potentially be a great place for people to gather and just have a healthy active lifestyle.”
Van Leusden confidently pointed out that Quesnel is on the brink of becoming a trail destination for tourists.
“You look at Williams Lake and they’re a huge cycling community who have lots of tourism that comes through that area just for mountain biking.
“We could diversify ourselves with not just mountain biking trails but also low-mobility multi-purpose family trails that all trace back to the Riverfront Trail.”