Trail work by volunteers starts in the Eastern Hillsides

A community forest is being transformed into a wilderness park above Chilliwack with strong community collaboration.

Volunteers began trail work Sunday on what will become a vast network of trails in the Eastern Hillsides of Chilliwack.

Volunteers began trail work Sunday on what will become a vast network of trails in the Eastern Hillsides of Chilliwack.

A community forest is being transformed into a wilderness park high above Chilliwack with a vast network of recreational trails.

Trail work on the Community Forest Park Project kicked off last Sunday in the Eastern Hillsides, with Chilliwack Park Society volunteers roughing in the first 400 metres of trails.

Park Society spokesperson Marc Greidanus said the key idea behind the project is encouraging outdoor physical activity.

The trails will be for hiking, running, mountain biking, dog walking, all to dovetail with future development eyed for the hillsides.

“It’s exciting to be wandering around the forest and marking future trails,” Greidanus said.

A beginner trail of 2.5 km will be wide and gradual, accessible to all fitness levels. The moderate trail at 7 km will feature slightly steeper grades, and looping options.

“We are a collaborative organization,” he noted about the newly minted Chilliwack Park Society. “The overall goal is community involvement and protecting green spaces.”

They made a point of getting all local stakeholders on board, right from the outset.

“The community is really coming together to make this happen,” Greidanus noted. “People bring their own passion, their way of doing things and perspectives to it. It’s also a little overwhelming in that it’s a lot of work, but it’s very exciting.”

It’s gone from casual discussions about trail-building among friends, to building a truly collaborative and inclusive partnership.

It’s in the early stages so far with long-term options including multi-use trails, trailhead parking, picnic facilities, scenic views, and interpretive elements explaining traditional Sto:lo uses.

The Park Society has partnered with City of Chilliwack and FV Mountain Bikers Association, and had discussions with FVRD and Ministry of Forests. Partnerships are also being forged with Cheam First Nation, Heartland Fellowship, Unity Christian School and more.

“We are also looking for community participation in the creation of the park,” he added.

Hillsides residents and other volunteers will be facilitating both the construction and maintenance of the trail system.

The Community Forest Park project is estimated to cost $102,000 with about half the funding coming from City of Chilliwack.

The basic idea is to build the trail system, connecting Bridal Falls Provincial Park, to the Community Forest, eventually connecting to the Elk-Thurston saddle and Ryder Lake.

It will help encourage people to get outdoors, actively exploring the local mountainsides, said Greidanus, whose day job is as a local physician at the hospital.

The trails will lead to more physical activity outdoors, like the Japanese practice of “shinrin-yoku,” sometimes described as ‘forest bathing’ known to reduce stress and improve well being.

Build-out estimates could see a population of 6,700 people living on the Eastern Hillsides over the coming years, which is part of what’s driving the trail building effort.

The first community trail day is set for Sunday, July 19 at 1 p.m. Volunteers will meet in the parking lot south of Allan Road. For more information or Chilliwack Park Society on FB.

* this version has been modified from the original to correct erroneous info. There is no horseback riding on the trails allowed.

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