City moves to meet demand as trail use surges in Kamloops | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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City moves to meet demand as trail use surges in Kamloops

A jogger enjoys the trail under the Yellowhead Bridge in Kamloops in this undated file photo.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
February 17, 2021 - 3:01 PM

City of Kamloops officials are moving to meet a surge of interest in the trail system brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

City council has green lit the hiring of another parks staffer and a new arborist to help with maintaining the dozens of trails within city limits, City parks manager Jeff Putnam said.

The hiring comes on the heels of 1,003,278 visits last year which works out to a whopping 64% increase in trail usage in Kamloops compared to 2019.

Putnam notes the attendance numbers are not actual usage figures, but visits counted using a laser counter hidden at various trailheads. He added the numbers are useful in indicating trends over time.

"We're encouraging people to get exercise in a healthy way. There was quite a period of time where a lot of (exercise) facilities weren't even open," Putnam said. "Anecdotally, it seems everyone I know is buying cross-country skies, snowshoes, mountain bikes and snow bikes. Everyone is buying equipment for recreation outdoors now."

Albert McGowan Park map
Albert McGowan Park map
Image Credit: City Of Kamloops

To meet the higher demand, the City will spend about $168,000 annually on the two new staff, plus equipment. However, Putnam is asking residents to take care when using trails, as some of the surrounding landscape is being damaged by those leaving the main routes.

"We're really noticing more people using undesignated trails, creating more burden for us to keep up with maintenance," Putnam said. "What makes Kamloops so special is the semi-arid environment with desert like features, growth happens very slowly... and if people don't stay on regular trails, it takes decades for soil and plants to come back."

Meanwhile, Putnam believes the added staff will be enough to meet demand during the coming year.

Even though they saw people in large numbers on the trail system every month in 2020 (the peak period is typically May through to the end of September), Putnam said interruption of trail goers use due to maintenance in 2021 should remain at a minimum.

"We close trails on a semi regular basis," Putnam said. "Most users won't be impacted by closures. They're well thought out in slower periods."

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