2019 was an exciting year for us, appropriately falling on our 10-year anniversary as an Association – ten years of thousands of volunteer hours doing everything from building trail to building relationships. It’s such an honour for me to carry the flag that started with Past President Gil Parker all those years ago. Building trail continued on various sections, bringing our total to about 85% completion. Approximately 650 km of the route is passable, but requires improvement. This assumes/includes the use of right of way along 60 km of the recently closed Englewood Logging Railway. Community members at Woss are major supporters in this regard. The remaining 120 km will largely be through private forest lands. Building relationships continues to be a top priority. Our most significant relationship has been nurtured with Mosaic Forest Management that manages the private forest lands of Timber West and Island Timberlands. Timber West demonstrated their support for trail development with a $150,000 gift to allow completion of the Great Trail on Vancouver Island by closing the ‘Malahat Gap’. Since we follow the Great Trail from Victoria to Lake Cowichan, completing this gap was very much to our advantage. Since then, Mosaic and VITA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (the details of which are confidential), and I’m happy to report that as a result of the MoU, Mosaic loans us keys to their gates for the purpose of trail reconnaissance – a big step in the right direction! We are now concentrating on closing the two main gaps in the Trail across the private forest lands between the Alberni valley and Cumberland and between Strathcona Park and the Gold River Highway. Please stay posted by visiting our website where you’ll find hi-def maps, up-to-date trail conditions on our blog, and other information. We hope you will support our cause and become a Friend of the VI Trail by making a small tax-deductible donation and/or by lending a hand. Other relationships have been forged with several local and regional governments. Last June the Municipality of Oak Bay hosted an official opening of our South Trailhead at their Anderson Hill Park. They’ve also installed our trail signs on their Centennial Trail 6X6 posts from Anderson Hill to the Victoria border. (I happened to be the champion of that trail back in 2006 as part of my urban Pemberton Trail initiative, creating a loop from the Inner Harbour to South Oak Bay). In the meantime, the Capital Regional District has given us the go ahead to install signs right up to the border of the Cowichan Valley Regional District. Just prior to the pandemic, the City of Victoria also gave us permission to sign. We also have a great relationship with the Comox Valley Regional District, facilitating a land use agreement between them and Mosaic. Approximately 80 signs have been installed as of May 2020, nearing half of what is needed. Trail from Lake Cowichan to Port Alberni is now in its best-ever condition following Spring 2020 maintenance. Many volunteer hours were needed to clear massive windfall from the historic storms of late December 2018. Our Board of Directors decided to streamline the Association and focus on trail completion, acting more like a task force, a Working Board if you will. We were being pulled in many directions. We cut our membership to only the Directors, freeing up time to allow us to focus on trail building and utilizing the individual skills that each Director brings to the table. We are however actively seeking 2 or 3 more Directors. We know we need a First Nations liaison and a Communications Director, a social media type who can post a few times a month. Our vision includes a significant First Nations presence. We see cultural signage along the route explaining customs, language, art, religion, and traditional territories. Some folk have compared the VI Trail with the Camino de Santiago; although both are ‘epic’ hikes, I tell them “you’ll learn about the beliefs of 49 First Nations along the route, rather than just one”. 2020 promises more of the same drive to complete what will become a world class trail, despite the pandemic. Small groups who travel separately and can social distance during trail work have continued to do maintenance like clearing fallen trees and trimming back the ever-encroaching growth. If you are a member of an outdoor/hiking club, you can help by organizing a small work party, hiking a trail section, or simply by spreading the word. You can really help us out too, by going to our website and becoming a Friend of the VI Trail. Thank you for your support.
– Ken Milbrath, President, Vancouver Island Trail Association
NOTE: The Vancouver Island Trail was originally called the Vancouver Island Spine Trail and the association was referred to as VISTA (Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association). We have left the terms VI Spine Trail, Spine Trail and VISTA in past newsletters and reports.