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Regional Trails Plan stalls in tracks

Lack of progress frustrates outdoor organizations and regional board director
NEXT STEP: Powell River Regional District’s Regional Trails Plan is intended to open up Powell River’s backcountry for more recreational use, including winter activities. Contributed photo

Frustration is mounting over the lack of movement Powell River Regional District has made on a Regional Trails Plan unanimously adopted by the regional district board in March.

Powell River Outdoor Recreational Users Group (ORUG), which represents 29 member groups, and City of Powell River regional board director Russell Brewer are becoming impatient with the lack of progress.

“The plan has a number of next steps, recommendations and priorities over the next three years,” said Brewer. “In March, the board said it considered the first three of those critical.”

Priorities include establishing a trails standing committee to coordinate all trails-related initiatives, securing liability insurance to indemnify trail volunteers and recruiting and retaining a regional parks and trails coordinator to work with all levels of government and volunteer trail-user groups.

“It’s long overdue; I’m quite frustrated,” said outdoor users group president Roger Artigues. “I told the board that instead of worrying about how much money it spends, look at it as an investment in the future.”

Artigues said a trails coordinator would be responsible for applying for grants and bringing money into the community, as well as coordinating volunteer efforts of various groups that do volunteer work in the backcountry.

On the board level, money is the issue, according to Brewer and regional district board chair Patrick Brabazon.

Brabazon said he understands Artigues' expectations for something to happen with the trails plan faster than it has, but there are complications. There is disagreement on the board over the amount of money to be spent on the regional parks and recreational services bylaw, he added.

The trails coordinator and trails plan fall under the regional parks service, according to Brabazon.

Brewer said there is no reason the board cannot go ahead and establish a standing committee trails plan. He added that he did not think everyone on the regional board read the trails plan and some had forgotten the three priorities had already been approved.

“I don't think that most see the value or appreciate the importance of a regional trails plan,” said Brewer. “They certainly want to increase the regional parks budget, but the trails and some of those backcountry amenities are as much a part of the regional parks consideration as the existing parks we have in place.”

Brabazon said not all board members are in agreement with the plan.

“There isn't universal enthusiasm for this trails plan,” said Brabazon. “I am enthusiastic. Some other directors are enthusiastic.”

According to Brabazon, while there is agreement on the board to fund a trails coordinator, there is not a consensus as to what the coordinator would do.

Brewer said one report estimated the total cost including benefits for the coordinator position is $100,000. The total is a significant amount of money, he added.

Brabazon said it was his guess that the figure would not be approved in the current cycle of budget discussions.

“Now is the time to establish clearly a proper job description and salary for a trails coordinator,” said Brabazon. “It's time to clean up all of the outstanding matters that have to be done right now.”