Old Dogs, New Tricks

TEACHING “OLD DOGS” NEW TRICKS can be quite the challenge, when time-ingrained habits have been repeatedly practiced. Such is the case with trail users who might need a little update on friendly trail use. When travelling on trails that have been designed for the specific function of moving people, animals, or goods one must consider their potential impact on the socio fabric that surrounds this environment. Trails are designed, and then purpose built to support the needs of the users. These trail user classifications build in physical characteristics such as: tread  width, surface material, clearing widths and heights, with minimum and maximum grades to suit the trail user abilities.

The Fernie Trails Alliance has been working over the last couple of years to construct trails that provide opportunities for all levels of skill, interest, and comfort. With these new offerings, making our trails accessible to a broader user group creates challenges for all skill levels to cohabitate on the same ribbon of dirt.

One of the most common issues is the interaction between persons travelling in opposing directions, and how this encounter is handled. The simple trail etiquette rules for these instances, are to move to your right, and give the uphill traveller the right of way. When an uphill mountain biker is grinding up the trail they usually have their head down while they negotiate the terrain at a crawling pace, whereas a downhill rider is looking far ahead to adjust to their quickly changing environment. When groups of hikers meet up with mountain bikers, the whole group should simply move to the right. When trail users meet up with a horse and rider, it is best to stop and let the horse move by unfettered.

As with any interface when passing someone, either going up or down, it is always best to make a point of acknowledging them with a courteous greeting. Sharing information about what is ahead or behind on the trail can also provide insights on wildlife encounters, potential trail hazards, presence of other trail users, and or just a cordial exchange.

With the recently completed construction of the Lazy Lizard trail from the Mount Fernie Park boundary to Island Lake Lodge, an 8 km multi-use trail now provides an alternative to riding or hiking up the road. The Fernie Trails Alliance is in negotiations with BC Parks for permission to extend the trail to the campground. We will also be working with the Cedars developer to extend the trail along Mt Fernie Park Rd. to connect to the Fernie Centennial Trail, along Highway 3. When this project is completed, a person could conceivably travel on a trail from Fernie to Heiko’s Mountain Lakes Trail and return via Hartley Lake Road, a 43 km loop.

As a collective of trail users, we all have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to have an enjoyable, safe outing while recreating on Fernie’s spectacular trail network. The Fernie Trails Alliance works on everyone’s behalf to enhance, maintain and fund source for the trails in the area. Stay tuned for the Fairy Creek Pedestrian Bridge project that will provide a trail linkage from Fernie to the Chamber /Tourist Info trailhead, Mt. Proctor Trails, and Dicken Road area residents. Check out the new features at the Aquatic Centre bike skills park. You will be thrilled, and amazed, it is “Not Just for Kids” folks.

Happy Trails.