SORCA Trail Crew and volunteers work tirelessly to maintain Squamish’s expansive trail network. While the big projects and new trails receive lots of recognition, SORCA also puts much of its energy into yearly maintenance to keep our already world class trail system running. Huge growth in mountain bike tourism, 2000mm+ of annual rainfall, and being an hour from a major metropolitan centre puts major strain on the trails.
The three pillars of our maintenance program are drainage and dirtwork, brushing, and woodwork repair. Keeping water off the trails keeps them from turning into boulder filled rivers. Brushing keeps sight lines clear – the trails are a lot more fun when sticks aren’t hitting you in the face. There are hundreds of bridges in Squamish, built with varying degrees of love and attention. We do our best to keep these safe for all users.
Many of our trails have required some major work to handle the traffic and the weather that Squamish gets. We’re seeing great results from some of these major maintenance projects. For example, Man Boobs needed over 200 hours of work in 2015, but needed less than 100 in the years following. Somewhere Over There, Rupert and Credit Line have all followed similar patterns, with major initial upgrades resulting in decreased maintenance requirements later on.
The Sea to Sky region has a proud history of mountain bike trail building. Squamish has consistently stood out as a community surrounded by vast and varied mountain terrain ideally suited to mountain biking. It is also home to an exceptionally committed and talented group of volunteer and professional trail builders.
How do I go about starting a trail build?
Leave your shovel at home to start. Before you break ground you’ve got a few objectives. First, take a look at a trail map. Is there a missing link in the network somewhere? An area that’s underdeveloped? Wherever possible, a new trail should complement an existing network.
Next, head out on foot. Spend a few weeks exploring your new zone. Decide if it’s a feasible build based on terrain and drainage paths. Take a GPS with you and map out your proposed line. Save this as a Google maps KMZ file, as you’ll need it later.
If your field assessment is positive, it’s time for a little admin work. Go onto iMapBC online to find out who manages the land. If it’s a private land owner, reach out to them directly to get permission. If it’s crown land, you’ll need to apply for a Section 57 trail building permit.
Who is in charge of granting trail building permissions?
Recreation Sites and Trails BC is responsible for granting Section 57 trail permits. They operate under the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (MFLNRO). Lucky for us they have an office in Squamish. Start by filling out a T.E.S.T Form and a Proposal Form. These can be submitted directly to the Recreation Sites and Trails BC office at Suite 101, 42000 Loggers Lane, Squamish, BC V8B 0H3 or via email to the local recreation officer.
The review process for a trail on crown land involves an environmental review and consultation with various stakeholders and user groups. The application process takes an average of 6 months and an approval is not guaranteed. That said, if the trail has merit, presents no major user conflicts and checks the environmental boxes, your odds of being able to build it are good!
Why this process?
The trails approval process helps avoid disputes and broker compromise between trail users (hikers, dirt bikers), government, logging industry, and the community at large. It also serves to protect fragile local ecosystems and riparian areas. To ensure that everyone can keep building and using trails long-term, we ask that our trail builders work within the process.
Can I get help?
Building a trail as a volunteer is truly a labor of love. As the permit holder, you have taken on a major commitment. The average hand-built trail takes 1 to 3 years to build, so be patient. Trail building is one of the most gratifying, self-fulfilling hobbies you can have. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and the woods you’re working in.
It’s also tons of fun, so make sure to get your friends involved. You’ll be surprised how many get hooked! SORCA can also help you organize volunteer trail days to get some extra people on board. Many hands make quick work.
Are there any trail building resources to help me along the way?
Take a look through these materials:
1) Whistler Trail building standards
2) IMBA Trail building and design