The final, westward leg of the Cowichan Valley Trail received a facelift this month and the province’s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson was on hand last week for the trail’s official dedication ceremony.
On Friday, political figures from local, regional and provincial governments gathered with representatives from the Pacheedaht First Nation and the Cowichan Lake Community Forest Cooperative to officially mark the completion of trail upgrades, which were funded by the local forest co-op.
“This stretch of the trail is at least 30 years old and it was in quite serious need of renovation. Vegetation was growing in from the side. The ground was getting rough,” said CLCFC spokesman Pat Hrushowy, referring to the two-kilometre stretch of trail from the trestle bridge to the A&W in Lake Cowichan.
The co-op asked for an estimate on the restoration of that section of trail and learned it would be $30,000 to “bring it back to a stage where the hikers could really enjoy this two kilometre section” of trail, according to Hrushowy.
He said the CLCFC board approved the plan and sent an offer to the Cowichan Valley Regional District (which is responsible for maintaining the trail), which accepted the donation and carried out the upgrades.
“The work just got completed this week and we’ve asked Mr. Thomson to officially dedicate this trail as some of the land is part of the province’s title as well,” he said.
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Thomson praised the way B.C. community forest initiatives are providing positive contributions to the regions where they’re located.
“Across the province we have community forests that are giving back. I looked at the numbers and [there has been] an average investment of $70,000 back into recreation and trails in communities all across the province, creating these amenities for your citizens,” he told the assembled crowd.
“It’s a real pleasure to be here. I think it’s a great example of why we support the community forest model and concept.”
Since September 2015, the CLCFC has contributed more than $80,000 to a wide range of community groups and projects in the Cowichan Lake area, including donations to the Lady of the Lake Society, the Kaatza Museum and Archives, the Royal Canadian Legion and more.
Thomson said the provincial government has been working on an incremental basis to provide more opportunities for community forest models.
“We work diligently to try to help communities and try to find those opportunities because we know the money goes right back into the communities,” he said.
Pacheedaht Chief Jeff Jones was present to witness the celebration in absence of a Lake Cowichan First Nation representative. He said he was honoured to be there.
Area F director Ian Morrison was on hand to represent the CVRD at the ceremony, who thanked the CLCFC for funding the upgrades and also talked about the Cowichan Valley Trail as whole.
“This is a pretty exciting project for us because not only are we upgrading and repairing this section of the trail but the Cowichan Valley Regional District, through our parks and trails division, are right now working on that last bit, that last connection to Victoria,” he said.
“We’re going to have a really exciting tourism opportunity with the people being able to come on the Cowichan Valley Trail… right to our community.”