Popularity can have its downsides as well as its upsides.
The City of Kelowna’s largest park, Knox Mountain Park, has been loved to death in places.
To help restore some of the most-damaged trails in the park, the city has embarked on a multi-phase restoration and development plan, which has already cost the city $200,000 in the past two years.
Wednesday, Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan announced a grant of $100,000 to be matched with $100,000 from the city to restore the Apex Trail which runs from the bottom at the parking lot to the Crown Lookout, and on up to the top of the mountain.
Currently there’s a ‘fall line’ trail that has been carved into the mountain down to the roadway, just above the parking lot, by off-trail users.
It will be repaired and a new, more-sustainable trail built to zig-zag up that first steep section.
Further up, a couple of sets of stairs are being created in particularly-steep locations of the trail, and it will be re-routed across the slope instead of straight down, to reduce erosion and damage to the ecosystem.
Manager of parks and open places, Terry Barton, said the 310-hectare park was originally given to the city in 1939 and since then it’s been one of the city’s most popular parks, attracting as many as 2,000 people on a weekend.
In making the announcement, Cannan said it’s important to protect not only the integrity of trails system, but also the long history of the park.
He noted the park attracts families from throughout the region, providing an urban oasis of green in the midst of all the development of a large city.
Kelowna Mayor Walter Gray called it the city’s equivalent to Vancouver’s Stanley Park and commented, “It took someone years ago to have the vision to preserve this spot—but with that gift comes a responsibility of management.”
The natural park, with its miles of walking and cycling trails and panoramic viewscapes, is valued by both residents and visitors, he noted.
All that use would have less impact on what makes the park special if unsanctioned trail use was discouraged, he added, and that’s what the restoration work will do, while creating new trails for users.
In the park’s management plan, restoration of the Apex Trail was identified as one of the highest priorities, so phase one got underway in 2011 and phase two in 2012, said Barton. The work is to be completed this year.
The government grant helps to get the work done well ahead of the original schedule.
The Apex Trail from the Crown Lookout to the bottom will be a single use trail, for pedestrians only, explained project manager Amy Nyhof. Signs and fencing will be used to keep people off the areas where the old trail is being rehabilitated.
Its open, exposed, sunny aspect means it is habitat for a variety of delicate plants such as bitterroot or Lewisia Rediviva and mariposa lily or calochortus macrocarpus, so off-trail use is particularly damaging to the ecosystem.
She said they plan to plant some trees on the steep slope as well.
The federal funds come from the Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund.