Craig Campbell (second from left) and Thomas Schoen (far right) smile for a photo with students of the field school near the Wonderland trail network. Ronan O’Doherty photo

Thompson Rivers University field school visits Quesnel’s Wonderland trail network

The group travels around the Cariboo to help build trails and to learn how they benefit communities

A group of students from Thompson Rivers University (TRU) came to Quesnel this week to help members of the Gold Rush Cycling Club work on the Wonderland mountain biking trail network south of Dragon Lake.

The students are members of a field school that travels throughout the Cariboo looking at sustainable trail development. The group of 10 was led by Craig Campbell, a member of the university’s Faculty of Adventure, Culinary Arts and Tourism, and was spoken to by Mayor Bob Simpson upon arrival at the trail network.

“We met with the mayor, Bob Simpson,” says Campbell, “and he introduced us to the master plan and the future development. [He talked about] the official community plans that will be coming down the pipe here, and how trails are a big part of that process.”

The group came to Quesnel specifically to learn more about trail planning, master planning, and how those things work to the benefit of communities. “So the key outcome is for the students to learn about that planning process, and we’re here tonight to join in as volunteer hands in the dirt, and to help build some trail,” says Campbell.

The field trips allow the students to get out the trails in the Cariboo and not only help build them, but also meet the people behind the trails. Campbell says they fondly refer to the program as the “Trails to Reconciliation Field School,” as it gets the group out to the land-base of the trails, and they get to meet some of the people in the field.

He says much of their work is done with Thomas Schoen, who made the master plan for the Dragon Mountain and Wonderland trail networks, and the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program, where they get to visit the progressive trail networks within the indigenous communities in the Cariboo.

READ MORE: Cariboo First Nation using mountain biking to engage youth

It’s the program’s third year, and Campbell says they’ve been learning about all he best trail locations. The first stop of the year is at the Xat’sull Heritage Village, where they take a look at the Soda Creek trail network and meet with a local Elder. Then they travel to ?Esdilagh First Nation to help build trails and join them for a community lunch. Campbell says both visits were very “impactful” for the students.

“From here,” adds Campbell, “we will head down to the Esk’etemc [First Nation] and we’ll stay in some tiny houses, which is a small tourism project going on there. It is more of a cultural stop, I’d say, on the trip — and then the last place we’ll stop is with the Simpcw First Nation … They have a great trail network.”

He continues: “[The Simpcw] have really been on the vanguard of the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Biking Program, [which] builds sustainable trails for their community. So we go visit a few days there as guests of the community and get to build some trail with them as well. It’s always really rich. Students come away with a really strong sense of community and again get to look deeply to what their contribution for truth and reconciliation is as a movement for Canadians.”

Of his own experience with the program, Campbell says he’s originally from the Kootenays and has been involved with trail building for some time now. “I love it … My role at TRU blends a number of these disciplines of community development and community engagement and then the technical aspect of building trails.”

— with files from Ronan O’Doherty

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