COVID made Greater Vernon the Trails Capital of B.C. | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID made Greater Vernon the Trails Capital of B.C.

Farnsworth Nature Reserve, Middleton Mountain is part of the Trails Capital of B.C.
Image Credit: Submitted/Ribbons of Green Trails Society

Vernon’s Ribbons of Green Trails Society has been working for more than 20 years to develop trail networks in the Greater Vernon region.

Businesses like Predator Ridge, Silver Star and Sovereign Lake have been building similar works at their sites.

It’s now come together with the official registration of the trademark designating Greater Vernon as Trails Capital of B.C.

“It kind of came to a head because of COVID,” Kim Young, the society’s spokesperson, told “One of the things we found with COVID, traffic to the website increased tremendously and the use of the trails increased.

“The government couldn’t take that away from us. It couldn’t tell us that we couldn’t do that. It was something we could do. We couldn’t go on vacation so let’s go for a walk. Let’s take the dogs out. Let’s get a dog. Let’s buy bicycles. COVID got people out using the trails.”

Harold Sellers, the society’s president, used to live in Uxbridge, Ontario, a community about 65 kilometres north of Toronto.

In 2008 it received its Trail Capital of Canada certificate from the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.

So Sellers, and other society directors, figured Vernon could do something similar through the Canadian Registrar of Trademarks.

While it’s just a title that anyone could have applied for, there’s more reasons for doing it than just getting bragging rights as the first region to think of it.

“We wanted to raise awareness of the tremendous trail resources we have in the area,” Young said. “We find, all the time, that people don’t realize how extensive the trails are and the fact that other communities have challenged us and said: ‘We’ve got trails too. Why’s Vernon the Trail Capital?’ tells me they don’t know what kind of a trail network we have either.”

There was also a lot of interest during COVID as to where trails were, how difficult they were and things like where to park or find washrooms.

The Granite Trail at Predator Ridge
The Granite Trail at Predator Ridge
Image Credit: Submitted/Ribbons of Green Trails Society

“Ribbons of Green has been working for more than 20 years to enhance the trails resource in Vernon,” Young said. “It’s seen tremendous growth and improvement but, it’s not us that’s doing it. It’s been the community. We wanted to recognize the work of the community.”

That includes local and senior governments, business and community groups like the North Okanagan Cycling Society that negotiated unique agreements for trails in both Ellison and Kalamalka Lake provincial parks.

There’s even an aqua park in Kalamalka Lake.

READ MORE: Cyclists have another new 'hidden' trail in Vernon

Young estimates there are 300 to 500 kms of trails in the region but, given some have been made just by people walking places while others are paved multi-use corridors, it is impossible right now to measure them all.

He pointed to Grey Canal as one example, which has seven spikes to it.

Grey Canal Trail, Turtle Mountain
Grey Canal Trail, Turtle Mountain
Image Credit: Submitted/Ribbons of Green Trails Society

“The trails follow the historic Grey Canal, a former 50 km irrigation channel which sustained orchards and agricultural land through the Greater Vernon area,” the Green Ribbons website says. “Built between 1906 and 1914, the Grey Canal was the backbone of the largest irrigation district in BC and provided water to over 20,000 acres.”

It carried water to Lavington, around Coldstream, Vernon and Swan Lake to Okanagan Lake.

“Today, each Grey Canal trail section offers unique topography with distinctive panoramic views and vantage points,” the website says. “Remnants of the former historical Grey Canal and its elaborate system of ditches, siphons and flumes can be found along portions of the trail system.”

Then there’s the lake to lake to lake trail.

Swan Lake Nature Reserve
Swan Lake Nature Reserve
Image Credit: Submitted/Ribbons of Green Trails Society

Ribbons of Green started working on that concept 20 years ago. With funding from the City of Vernon, donations and grants it now has connections from Kalamalka Lake Beach to Kin Beach on Okanagan Lake but stops short of Swan Lake.

“It’s a paved, multi-use pathway,” Young said. “There’s a group that uses it called Cycling Without Age. They have two trishaws – electric-powered three-wheeled bicycles – that they can take older people on who are not able to walk on the Rail Trail. They take them for jaunts on the Rail Trail and they use that pathway to get access to the trail. How cool is that?”

Of course, the Okanagan Rail Trail starts in Coldstream on its way to downtown Kelowna and Okanagan Lake.

READ MORE: Completion of final section Okanagan Rail Trail hinges on federal gov't approval

Some day, that trail will connect to the Shuswap North Okanagan Rail Trail connecting Kelowna to Sicamous.

But one sticking point is the Highway 97 overpass over the still active rail line. There’s not enough room there for the trail.

That may change when the overpass is refurbished to deal with deteriorating concrete caused by road salt. Young is hopeful that when and if that work is done, adjustments can be made to the abutments to accommodate the trail.

Other options being looked at include Pleasant Valley Road or along Vernon Creek from Kal Tire Place.

Young fully understands that many other cities in B.C. have extensive trail networks and he has been questioned by some as to why Greater Vernon is now Trails Capital of B.C.

Okanagan Landing Multi-Use Trail
Okanagan Landing Multi-Use Trail
Image Credit: Submitted/Ribbons of Green Trails Society

“This isn’t a contest,” he said. “It’s not about who has the biggest cucumber or who has the biggest pumpkin at the county fair. This is about us recognizing the effort of a tremendous community to build these trails and letting people know what trails there are. If other communities, like Kelowna, want to use this to spur development or improve their trail networks, great. We would love to see that happen.”

The title will be used to market the region and go onto trail signage.

Young also wants it to lead to the development of a website, likely in conjunction with Tourism Vernon, that will have a full inventory of all trails in the region with consistent standards for describing them.

That would pull together, or at least, link to the existing database of other trail websites in the region.

Ribbons of Green has detailed descriptions of dozens of trails on its website but that’s only about 20% of the ones in the region. Predator Ridge, Silver Star and Sovereign Lake all have maps on their separate websites.

“I would love to see that, through this, other communities realize the value of this as an enchantment to the liveability of a community so they improve their trail networks,” Young said. “Everybody benefits because of it. So, if we spur the development of trails in other locations, great.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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