China Ridge Trails group continue with recreational and historical trail development in the Princeton area

China Ridge Trails President Kelley Cook, along with Heather MacDonald of the Fatdog 100 Race committee made a presentation to the regional district board at the April 7 regular meeting of directors.

The informative session outlined to the board the extensive work that China Ridge Trails have done in the recreation area located eight kilometres west of Princeton.

China Ridge Trails have been active in the Princeton area as a volunteer society since 1989, Cook told the directors. In 2007, the Slovanian nordic team trained in the area, and useage of the network of trails has snowballed since then.

Cook thanked the regional district for the interest shown in the project, as well as their support through a number of grants over the years. Combined with $35,000 raised through the community the group built a long house in 2008. Other grants include gaming and tourism offerings that have allowed China Ridge Trails to build and maintain 50 kilomteres of cross country ski trails and 15 kilometres of snowshoe trails.

Cook also acknowledged the assistance of the Similkameen Valley Planning Society in their efforts to build the trail system and develop a strategy for winter tourism. Last year, a successful recreational package was put together in which 25 participants took part.

The recreational trails are seeing a huge increase in usership by mountain bike enthusiasts, and China Ridge is working to build sustainable biking trails for this rapidly growing user group. The trails are currently designated for non motorized use in winter only, and consideration is being given to providing recreational trail opportunities to all users, including motorized use.

Cook concluded her presentation by informing the board that the group was currently looking at an application to the province to change the current land use management system from linear to polygon management, in order to more easily facilitate the addition and extension of trail routes.

Cook also made an interesting presentation on the Princeton and North Cascades’ long and illustrious history of native and trade routes, and their current importance as recreational heritage trails.

Remains of such historic routes as the Dewdney Trail, the Hudson’s Bay Fur Brigade Trail, and the Hope Pass Trail are being developed as hiking trails, largely as the result of the extensive work of the late Harley Hatfield, a former Kaleden resident who spent 40 years researching and rediscovering the three historic  routes in the Princeton area.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars has been spent by China Ridge in the development of campgrounds along these pristine routes through the North Cascades. It is hoped that eventually a trail over the North Cascades from Princeton through to Hope can be completed, as  a five year plan to open old trails and market them to the public gets underway. Cook noted that the group’s next steps include:

– a request to the RDOS for a letter to the Ministry of Environment encouraging the designation of a Class A park to the Cascade wilderness area.

– support for Off Road Vehicle legislation.

– to consider heritage designation in a watershed context study of the Tulameen / Similkameen watershed.

– to include heritage trails in the Electoral Area “H” Official Community Plan.

Regional district board  members expressed interest and appreciation for China Ridge Trails extensive efforts, agreeing to forward the information presented to the Community Services Department of the regional district for further investigation.

Historic Trails in the Princeton area

HBC Brigade Trail – Established in 1849, a 50 kilometre section of this trail is protected by the Provincial Heritage Act. There are also two sections of the trail that extend into the Tulameen.

Dewdney Trail – First engineered trail into the interior of the province, constructed in 1860 – 1864. Eighty per cent of the trail is now covered up by the Crowsnest Highway ( Hwy 3). Fifty four kilometres remain in the Princeton area.

Hope Pass Trail – a diversion of the Dewdney Trail, Royal Engineers blasted a passage around the Skajit Bluffs in 1864. Twenty-eight kilometres remain in Manning Park.