Sea to Sky Trail touches down in Pemberton

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Back in the ’90s, a couple of hammerhead trailbuilders, Russ Kirkwood and Mike Manheim, dreamed of linking the entire Sea to Sky corridor with an off-road mountain bike trail, and they even scratched in portions of it. They were ahead of their time. But 20 years later, the time for the Sea to Sky Trail has come. Approximately 60% complete, the latest section opened July 3, with the completion of the One Mile Lake to Nairn Falls Connector.

The vision for the Sea to Sky Trail is a 180km non-motorized multi-use trail, perfect for mountain bikes, that will link Squamish all the way to D’Arcy.

We talked to Allison MacDonald, the SLRD’s Parks and Trail Coordinator, to find out more about Pemberton’s most awesome new route.

Can you give us some perspective of where this section of trail fits into the big picture?

I’ve been working on the Sea to Sky Trail since 2006. Initially, we mostly focussed on the section between Whistler and Squamish. We had hoped to get that done in time for the 2010 torch relay, but did’t quite make it. That Squamish to Whistler section is practically complete.

Then, we looked at what to do next and instead of just moving north from Whistler, we wanted to build trail where it would get the most enjoyment and use. So we focussed in on the One Mile to Nairn Falls connector.

It was done in 2 phases?

Yes, the first half is outside the provincial park, from Pemberton to Nairn Falls Provincial Park boundary, and the second half is in the park, so we had to do the first half while waiting for approvals from BC Parks. We didn’t quite get it done in the fall, as we’d hoped, because winter came on fast, so we finished it this spring, and it was open July 3.

What kind of traffic is it getting?

I put a counter out for the last three weeks and we’ve averaged about 50 people a day. Outside the Whistler Valley Trail, that’s the highest usage of any part of the Sea to Sky Trail. (That would count anyone over 4 feet high! I had to put it high so it didn’t count bears or dogs.) I love it so much. Every time I go out there, I see runners, people biking, people out walking with dogs and strollers and kids.

How far is Nairn Falls from Pemberton? It always seemed quite a distance.

The trail is about 2.2km, so it’s a nice little 4 km out and back, and you can do a little loop if you use the old trail, head down the campground road to the river, and then back towards the Tower of Power trail.

What’s the next order of business?

On our wishlist, the Friendship Trail would be next. There’s a number of issues to deal with there – CN Rail, and how to cross the Lillooet River… We’re working in the background to get from the powerplant at Rutherford to Nairn Falls. We’ve got a couple of route alternatives, and I’ve been out walking it with Gord McKeever, Innergex, a couple of local trailbuilders, to look at different routes. I think Rutherford would be a nice piece, too.

What’s the decision-making factor?

Funding. If we can get funding. The Village of Pemberton is looking at funding and ways of getting across the Lillooet River. It’s basically dealing with property owners and getting funding. 95% of it is trying to get the permission and the funding. And it takes you three weeks to build the trail and you think, hey! we should do this more often.

Any thanks and shout-outs for this section of the trail?

BC Parks were super cooperative and helpful. Local Motion provided the grant for this section.  The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation was a founding funder for the entire Sea to Sky Trail project. Our Area C director Susie Gimse, because the matching funding came from the Area C Gas Tax. The Village of Pemberton was very supportive. Daniel Schranz Contracting Ltd. of Birken provided the gravel. The trail construction was done by Ted Tempany and his company, Dream Wizards Events, as well as Land Luggers Construction.

How challenging was this section of the trail?

It was a challenging section, to find a line that was feasible. And in the BC Parks section, we had to avoid rubber boa habitiat and the blue listed Lace Fern, and they also asked us not to cut down any dogwood, BC’s flower. So we flagged and rerouted the dogwoods, and now, in May and June, it’s all flowers in there and really pretty.

Are you getting any feedback from people?

Tons of positive comments on our facebook page.

When’s the best time to experience the trail?

The best time is to hit it for an early morning walk. The heat of the day hasn’t set in, there’s no bugs, it’s cool and breezy.

And where does the completion of this section put the Sea to Sky Trail in total?

We’re almost 60% complete. Squamish has its Corridor Trail. Whistler has the Valley Trail. Whistler has just connected  around Green Lake right to Wedgemount Lake So we’ve got all the way to Wedgewoods, where the developer put in a section of Sea to Sky Trail.  So now we’re at Nairn, and just have that little bit to connect.

Phase 2 and 3 of the Sea to Sky Trail vision is to extend to Lillooet and Horseshoe Bay. How far off is that?

On the ground right now, it’s a long way away. But we’ve been working on a water route from Squamish to Horseshoe Bay, exploring kayak routes and different stops and campsites through Howe Sound.

When will Phase 1 be done?

The Trans Canada Trail, which we’re part of, hope to be completed by 2017, but I would hope the Sea to Sky Trail would be sooner. 2015.

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  1. […] could end either with a swim or a waterfall, and can be done with a bike trailer or stroller, the Nairn Falls Connector is the […]



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