Wilderness is never far away in Greater Victoria. It’s such a familiar part of the landscape that it often goes unnoticed.
The outdoor community hopes to change that with an ambitious plan to share the joy of nature, and open the backwoods trail system to more users.
Enter the Southern Vancouver Island Nature Trails Society, also known by its acronym SVINTS.
Recognizing the region has an abundance of natural surface trails, the trails society wants to create an “epic network” of accessible multi discipline trails that animates locals and inspires tourists to revel in Greater Victoria’s backyard.
And while Greater Victoria has hundred of nature trails spanning thousands of hectares from Gowlland Tod Provincial Park to East Sooke, many are not coordinated or even connected to each other, said Daniel Cammiade, SVINTS executive director.
“It’s important for us to be out in these areas and that people realize what a special place we have and need to protect,” he said.
The first major project, which could take 10 years to complete, is to connect two large epic loops in the region.
The first will travel through Gowlland Tod Provincial Park into Hartland-Mt. Work Regional Park, then into the Thetis Lake Regional Park to connect back, together at Bear Mountain.
The second loop is much larger and would travel from Bear Mountain through the Sooke Hills to Leechtown and back using the Galloping Goose Trail.
The connections are important for a lot of good reasons: increased visitation to the parks, increased variety of trails for different users and environmental stewardship.
“This to create the most effective trail system we can to accommodate all users: hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, dog walkers, horseback riders, commuting cyclists and families,” Cammiade said.
The second phase of the project would see more work with specific trail networks that the bigger loops connect with, such as those aimed directly to hikers, mountain bikers and horse riders.
“It’s not that the nature trails society is strictly about shared use or we are trying to get cycling trails in everywhere,” Cammiade said.
“It’s mostly about getting these two great big corridors to connect things together and to get these different users out to the areas.”
The trails society was formed a year ago after Cammiade did extensive work on the Greater Victoria trail system through his professional work as a cartographer and writer.
He soon was in contact with EcoAsis, the new owners of Bear Mountain, who were interested in working with the outdoor recreational community.
The original plan was to connect the trails from Brentwood Bay to Leechtown and then he took it a step further and made those connections into loops by using the Galloping Goose Trail in Sooke with some work he did with the South Island Mountain Bike Society.
The process, so far, has seen the trails society create steward ship agreements with B.C. Parks, private land owners and municipalities. On Monday night, Cammiade and the society made a presentation to District of Sooke council.
Many of the trails that the society will work on already exist and require a little bushwhacking and levelling to put into use again with all of the weekend work done by volunteers. As for property acquisition, most of the land can be found in provincial and regional parks.
“I don’t think we should just be able to go out and use any part of the backwoods we want,” Cammiade pointed out. “We want – we need – to manage these area but at the same time still make sure sensitive plants and animals have enough room.”
For more on the work of SVINTS please email firstname.lastname@example.org.