The paths meander over 21.76 hectares and are a popular place to walk, run, and exercise your dog. Trails weave through the old growth, mixed forests, pine plantations and meadows. Bordered by the 4th street bridge, the Downie drainage canal, the illecillewaet river, and the Revelstoke River Trail, the greenbelt area, acting as a bird sanctuary, is heavily used by nature lovers in all seasons.
What you may not know is that the entire network of off pavement trails north of the Illecillewaet, is run by the Illecillewaet Greenbelt Society (IGS), a not for profit group. Established in the late 1980’s, the society has a license of occupation from the Province and BC Hydro with the caveat of keeping the land in its natural state. In 1991, the land was zoned as a park by the city.
This past winter, many a walker was delighted to find paths cleared, thanks to the winter trail grooming efforts of an IGS volunteer.
There have been difficulties, mostly with dog owners who use the off leash area as an excuse to fail to clean up after their dogs.
“There is dog poop everywhere,” says club president Louisa Fleming, “It is an off leash area but you’re still supposed to clean up, it doesn’t mean you can do whatever you like. A dog still needs to be under its owner’s control.”
The trails that the society both creates and maintains require both financial commitment and volunteer time. IGS have planted more than 10,000 trees and shrubs; reclaiming natural habitats. They have created signage, garbage bins, done danger tree removal, deal with windfall, and do trail brushing for bear awareness. In addition to maintenance, the club pays $1,500 a year in insurance, with additional insurance to cover winter trail grooming being added this winter. The IGS is dependant on grants and donations to cover insurance expenses.
With under 20 members, Fleming, believes it’s likely that most users don’t realize the area is maintained by the IGS or know the costs associated with keeping the trail network in good condition.
“We have stewardship over and are completely responsible for this land,” says Fleming. “I think it’s likely a lot of people who utilize the area have no idea they can buy a membership to help us do that.”
IGS is ready for new blood. In addition to the money membership can bring in (a yearly membership is $20, a lifetime membership is $100), Fleming is hopeful the community will embrace the IGS and join.
“Having a larger membership means when we have work parties, people will know about it and can come help. A membership is easier to connect with,” she explains. “We need to keep up the trail maintenance.”
Fleming has been the president of the club for over a decade. “I really think fresh input and perspective is important, and I’d love to see it,” she says. “Also, some of us are getting older. I’m seventy, I’m getting to the stage where I don’t feel like hauling around wheelbarrows of gravel anymore.”
If you (or your dog) are frequent users of the area, consider throwing your support behind the IGS by purchasing a membership and, when the opportunity arises, head out to a work party and lug some gravel. Head over to https://www.illecillewaetgreenbelt.com/ to learn more.