Shuswap Trail Alliance catches national media attention . . . in Chile
The Shuswap, British Columbia – The Shuswap Trail Alliance just went international. STA technical trails specialists, Veda Roberge and Jacob (Sutra) Brett, were featured in a full page colour story in Chile’s national newspapers, El Dia, last week. The coverage came as part of a two week exchange between the Shuswap Trail Alliance and the AMA Torres del Paine, a non-profit conservation organization that works with the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile. The two organizations have been sharing a conversation on sustainable trail design, restoration, and management.
“These guys are famous now!” wrote the President of the AMA Torres del Paine, Mauricio Kusanovic, in a message to Shuswap Trail Alliance Executive Director, Phil McIntyre-Paul. “This is the most read newspaper in the country,” he exclaims, pleased with the national exposure the shared project is attracting which supports their ongoing conservation efforts. The added attention also helps to support the local eco-tourism economy in the Patagonia region.
“We have completed an inventory with restoration recommendations and new route options for one of the main trails on this preliminary visit” said Veda. The 9 kilometre section of trail was identified as an ideal pilot to assess the overall state of the trail system. But discussions on the long-term sustainability of trails in the region led to a bigger conversation. “We kind of exploded things to a whole new level,” laughs Sutra, identifying the need for a comprehensive master trails plan for the National Park beyond just localized technical repairs.
Torres del Paine, Patagonia, is recognized as one of the top trekking and climbing destinations on the planet. It is visited annually by international travelers from around the planet. The AMA Torres del Paine organization works with the Chilean National Park service providing conservation and educational programs. Part of their work includes maintaining the internationally recognized trail system.
“We have an internationally famous trail system,” said AMA president, Mauricio Kusanovic. But many of the trails originate from old cattle trails, “so we have significant issues with erosion and a need for restoration, but we don’t have the technical trail building knowledge.” Enter the Shuswap Trail Alliance who have developed a tenacious capacity for building community partnerships and upgrading the technical standards of greenway trails throughout the Shuswap region in interior British Columbia.
“We’ve been sharing notes between our two organizations for several months now,” said Shuswap Trail Alliance executive director, Phil McIntyre-Paul, thanks to a connection made by Ross Cloutier, with the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Adventure, Tourism, and Culinary Arts. The faculty is a supporting partner of the Shuswap Trail Alliance. Cloutier connected the two organizations through the TRU Adventure Tourism program’s international program based in Patagonia, Chile.
In return for sharing technical expertise, the Shuswap Trail Alliance is learning from the international partnerships and educational work of the AMA Torres del Paine. “We are excited to be able to experience this beautiful part of the planet and also share with others who are trying to do similar work to the Trail Alliance,” said Veda and Sutra.
“This is really an amazing opportunity to learn from an organization that has a long history of collaborating with international partners,” says McIntyre-Paul. “We’re hoping to reciprocate with a similar visit to the Shuswap territory so their leadership can work alongside Veda and Sutra and others here who have helped us develop the standards that are getting the Shuswap noticed on the international radar.”
And if Mauricio’s latest correspondence is any indicator, this partnership is destined to grow. “I am pretty sure this is the start of a big project regarding the Shuswap Trail Alliance and Torres del Paine,” writes Mauricio, thanking Veda and Sutra for their knowledge and time volunteering in Patagonia. “There is a (local) legend that says if you kiss the Yagan foot (an indigenous Patagonian statue), and eat calafate (a local traditional dish), you will come back. Veda and Sutra made both!!! So it’s destiny now. . .”
Veda and Sutra return to the Shuswap this week. A special presentation on their recent work in Patagonia will be presented at the Shuswap Trail Alliance Annual General Meeting, March 2nd, 7:00 pm at Okanagan College – Salmon Arm (2552 – 10 Ave NE, Salmon Arm). All welcome.
Photo Caption: Talking trails around the globe – Jacob “Sutra” Brett (left) and Veda Roberge, technical trail specialists with the Shuswap Trail Alliance, conduct on-site assessments by horse with Mauricio Kusanovic (President of the AMA Torres del Paine) in Patagonia, Chile this month. The two organizations are supporting each others work to create sustainable trail systems and conserve vulnerable natural places. In exchange, the STA is learning about the conservation programs of the AMA. Torres del Paine, Patagonia, is one of the top trekking destinations on the planet. (Photo credit: Mauricio Kusanovic, AMA Torres del Paine. Used with permission.)
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