“We have a responsibility to speak for the animals and plants,” said Splatsin Councillor, Lawrence (Randy) Williams, in his opening welcome to regional leadership gathered for the second annual Shuswap Trails Roundtable at the new Splatsin Cultural Centre last Wednesday (Nov 30). “They depend on us to have a voice,” he said, pointing the way toward what is quickly emerging as a model for First Nations, local governments, provincial land managers, social sectors, industry, and community leadership working together to take better care of the land and how we move and relate in it.
Over 60 leaders from around the Shuswap met to report on work underway throughout the region and update the Shuswap Regional Trails Strategy. Priorities range from improved recreational access management in sensitive alpine areas, development of ways to protect vulnerable cultural sites including pictographs along trails like the Adams River, inventories of existing recreational use in areas like Mt Ida to develop agreements allowing future access in the area, work on protocols for Secwepemc naming of trails and interpretation throughout the Shuswap, and improved collaboration on mapping, promotion, and tourism development related to trails throughout the region. As well, opportunities for new trails were identified.
“It’s the process of working together that’s important,” said Neskonlith Councillor, Louis Thomas. Louis is championing improved pedestrian paths to connect Salmon Arm with the Secwepemc communities west of the town centre, as well as improved management of traditional lands surrounding Mt Ida, traditionally known as Kela7scen.
The Shuswap Regional Trails Strategy and Roundtable ensures trails grow as an integral part of the Shuswap lifestyle, culture and economy. It also ensures trails protect and promote Secwepemc First Nations interests, reduce and repair ecological damage, and manage land access appropriately.
Vigorous small group discussions gave direction to sub-regional planning priorities throughout the Shuswap for the coming year. These included non-motorized, motorized, and blueway paddle trail projects, monitoring and repair needs, areas of concern, and future recommendations. As well, priorities were affirmed like the growing opportunity for Active Transportation planning with current highway twinning projects, and legacy projects like the Sicamous-to-Armstrong Rail-Trail connecting with the Okanagan south to Osoyoos, and the West Bay Trail connecting communities of Salmon Arm, Neskonlith, Adams Lake, Little Shuswap and CSRD Area C in Tappen.
“I continue to support this work because of the respect and relationships that have been grown,” said Bonnie Thomas, Executive Director of the Switzmalph Cultural Society.
A major report was presented by Systems Ecologist, Barry Wilson, on the Cumulative Effects Assessment model for helping to make more thoughtful decisions about complex land management as a group. The process helps bring information from a wide range of different values together to reflect potential scenarios over time. It ensures the environment is a core part of the decision making, but also factors in social and economic factors along with historic data.
The Shuswap Trails Roundtable is exploring how to set up the Cumulative Effects program to include trail planning assessments. “The Shuswap Trails Roundtable is the personification of communities coming together for the greater good of their watershed”, said Wilson, who has been working with Secwepemc leadership using the assessment tools.
The Shuswap Regional Trails Roundtable is now the foundational meeting point for all trail-based planning, development, promotion, and experience programming throughout the Shuswap. A working group of partners meets quarterly, administered by the Shuswap Trail Alliance with facilitation assistance from the Fraser Basin Council. Roundtable partners acknowledge generous seed funding support from Recreational Sites and Trails BC, CSRD Parks, and Shuswap Tourism.
“We are very pleased to have representation from larger supporting organizations like the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association, Interior Health, the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society, the Backcountry Lodge Association of BC, the Adventure Tourism Tenure office, BC Parks, and Recreation Sites and Trails BC,” said Phil McIntyre-Paul with the Shuswap Trail Alliance. “This is the forum for us to link our efforts strategically with interior BC and the wider province. Leadership from these organizations are willing to travel and meet with us which is a strong indicator of the importance of what we’re attempting to do together.”
Phil points to examples like the Columbia Shuswap Invasive Species Society who are partnering on the new “Play, Clean, Go” program to curb the spread of invasive plants through recreational trail use, and Interior Health who are supporting Active Transportation walking and bicycling infrastructure initiatives through the healthy communities program.
Any organizations or communities interested in connecting with the Shuswap Regional Trails Roundtable should contact email@example.com or call 250-832-0102. Individuals interested in getting involved as a Trail Steward, should also be in touch. Copies of the Shuswap Regional Trails Strategy, overview mapping, background documents, and work plan updates can be found at www.shuswaptrailalliance.com.