There aren’t very many walking trails around Revelstoke that are accessible to seniors or families with young children until the late summer, but the BC Interior Forestry Museum (BCIFM) wants to change that. The museum received verbal confirmation from Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) this week that their grant application for their Riverside Forest Walk project was successful.
The approximately $23K of CBT funding will support the development of a network of trails North of Revelstoke on Hwy. 23, just before the dam, near Columbia View Park. The low elevation and gentle terrain below the museum makes it ideal for families and seniors.
“There are plenty of rugged backcountry trails but to give people a forest experience close to town without a lot of exertion is one of the important parts of this project,” said BCIFM spokesperson Brian Sumner. “We really want to make that happen. And to make an easy walking access for seniors as well.”
He said the BCIFM intends to start preparing the land for development in May, and that the trail network should be accessible by 2019.
The project is just one part of the museum’s mission to make the natural world the centrepiece of its collection.
“We’re having conversations about moving the museum in the direction of a museum without walls,” said Sumner. “The stars of our shows right now are loggers and logging equipment and the other star of the show is the forest itself. The North Columbia forest ecosystem is a unique working forest and trying to find ways to bring that forest alive for people is an interesting challenge.”
Currently, the BCIFM is in conversation with the Aboriginal Friendship Society (AFS) and with School District 19. (SD19)
The BCIFM and AFS have started a conversation about developing a storytelling circle, which would be a piece of land on the trail network with seating, and developing signage, according to a letter Sumner wrote to City Council on Feb. 5, seeking support for the project.
BCIFM director Glenn Westrup said he is grateful for the AFS participation.
“The Indigenous population were the original forest guardians. So we’re very grateful for their involvement with us,” said Westrup, who has been the BCIFM’s director for three years. “We’re still at stage one, but they have got some ideas for maybe a storytelling circle, which would be a clearing where we put in some seating.”
Sumner also said that SD19 has worked in partnership with the BCIFM to develop a youth forest engagement program.
He thinks the trail network will become an integral part of that educational initiative, and hopes to regularly host field trips.
In Sumner’s letter to council on Feb. 5 he wrote that the trail network will be developed on land below the museum leased for 30-years from the province.
The intention of Sumner’s letter was to request an “access agreement” be put in place to use the “road that cuts through the city property into the FLNRO lease.” The museum is on land leased from the City.
The access agreement would allow logging trucks to access the site to prepare it for development in the short term, and ensure public access in the long term.
Sumner also requested permission to build an on-leash dog walk loop on the city property and to erect trail signs that will connect the city property to the Crown Land.
He clarified that there is a significant amount of blow down on the future site of the trail network and wrote that “a small logging operation needs to occur to clean up the site.”
The BCIFM has yet to receive official confirmation of city support for the project, but Sumner wrote in his letter to Council that the BCIFM has met with director of parks and recreation Laurie Donato, and director of engineering, Mike Thomas, and Westrup said the word of mouth information the museum has received from the City has been very positive.
“We’re waiting to get written support from the municipality, but we have word of mouth support and hear that the project is worthwhile,” said Westrup.
Sumner said now that they’ve received funding, it’s time to “roll up our sleeves and get to work.”
He said the BCIFM will begin to embark on those conversations to seek support from the City and said the museum has a lot of exciting things planned. Over time the museum intends to put in a wheelchair accessible loop.
According to Sumner, the funding for that project would come from the Rick Hansen Foundation.