A survey to confirm the property boundaries along the south side of Schooner Way between the ball diamond and the market at Medicine Beach was completed in February. Results are available here (overview, pages 1,2,3)

We thank the CRD for their support in this work. A community discussion will be planned for the future (indeterminate delays due to COVID-19 concerns). Comments always welcome !

Opening of Monty’s Trail

August 25, 2016

You won’t want to miss this one! Watch for the grand opening of Monty’s Trail at the Pender Fall Fair on August 27. Karl and Hedi Hamson in their always generous way have allowed MAP to construct a modest trail across their property. In fact, Karl did a huge amount of the work on this trail himself, including building the very first stile on Pender. The stile allows walkers to get over the fence while keeping Karl’s sheep within the field. There’s even a ‘dog door’ to accommodate small dogs. The trail is named after Hedi and Karl’s large, enthusiastic Labrador Monty, known to many of you for his wandering ways. Monty’s trail [dogs on leash please—except for Monty!] starts at the back of the Community Hall, winds through the woods and exits just across the road from the Auchterlonie Centre, and is a delightful and safe alternative to using the road.

This is MAP’s first trail and it is especially special because it is on private land.

MAP has a long term vision of creating interconnected walking and biking trails on Pender to allow us to leave our cars at home, and enjoy nature while keeping ourselves and the environment in good shape. One way to help achieve this is to have some trails on the private property of community-minded land owners. This is now realistic because MAP has collaborated with trail societies on the other Southern Gulf Islands to purchase liability insurance for landowners who agree to allow such trails on their land.

Coming Soon. Watch for the extension of MAP’s trail system which, thanks to careful work by Ron Henshaw, will connect the Community Hall to the Farm Stand, via Valley Home Farm on Linda and Don Wein’s property. Way to go Don and Linda! Thanks to their generosity you will soon be able to avoid walking on that traffic-laden stretch of road. Both Monty’s Trail and the Valley Home Farm trail are on agricultural land and the owners obtained permission from the ALC to construct these trails.

The summer season on Pender is an important part of our economy, with most island businesses dependent on the increase in visitors to our bit of paradise. I know I’m not alone though when I look forward to the quiet days of early fall! I think for myself and many others that the greatest drawback of summer visitors is the increased traffic on the roads and the lack of parking. Rather than attempt to solve this problem with more asphalt, let me paint a picture of an alternative …

It is summertime, and your family has been pestering you to go visit Pender again. You live on the Saanich Peninsula and while summer days on Pender were an enjoyable part of your childhood, rising gas prices and ferry fares have made this a rare extravagance for your kids. Fortunately, now there are some choices. You and your family board the bus for Swartz Bay and get on the Saturday morning ferry for Pender. It’s mostly running on time today and you meet the Pender Community Bus at the other end. For a donation, the friendly driver takes you all to the Nu-to-yu which has just opened with all the great deals you remember. After browsing for treasures you take a short walk up to the Community Hall along a roadside path. The Farmers Market is in full swing, with lots of treats, fresh vegetables and handicrafts. Feeling rather flush (after you only spent a dollar at the Nu-to-yu!) you treat the family to some pastries and relax by the lounge on the deck. As the market wraps up you strike out with the family again, heading south along a path over private land that had been negotiated under the new GITS agreement (see the May 2014 Pender Post article). It is a pleasant stroll alongside the farmers fields and soon you arrive at the corner of Bedwell Harbour Rd. Turning right, you now proceed along the Einar’s Hill Bypass, a public trail which follows the right of way down a gentle slope through meadow and trees. Reaching the edge of the airstrip, you pause to look for traffic, but today the only flyers are a group of Canada geese browsing beside the pond. You continue onto the boardwalk that skirts the edge of the pond, through the fragrant skunk cabbage and hear a splash to your left. Maybe it was a beaver ? The kids look intently but the only evidence are some gnawed tree trunks … next time perhaps. As you continue along the trail you go up a rise and meet a couple of cyclists heading north. They have chosen the bypass to avoid the steep hairpin turn on the road, a tricky spot to negotiate. Continuing through the cool greenery of second growth forest, you pass through a section of the national park reserve then follow an old logging/access road past another pond to the Driftwood Centre. The return trip of the Community Bus isn’t scheduled for a while, not a problem with all the opportunities to shop or just sit by the cafe and enjoy the afternoon. Maybe the thought of the beach at Browning attracts you and you cross the road to follow the Hamilton trail down to the shore … a beer on the deck at the pub perhaps ? Or perhaps second thoughts about that almost new lamp at the Nu-to-yu make you decide to wander to the car stop opposite and catch a ride back north before the store closes. Either way, by the time you are all on the ferry heading back to Swartz you will have had a full and satisfying day out, all without using your car !

Naturally, the above scenario is not yet a reality but if this sounds like the sort of project you’d like to support, come on out the the next MAP meeting (usually 1st Saturday, just after the market on the deck beside the lounge).

Defining the best place for an alternative transportation route can be difficult. For the most part, the land in the Gulf Islands has been occupied for decades and save for the existing roads which have developed along with our populations, there is little room to spare. Where should we go ?

For some people, the answer is obvious … just use the roads. Bicycles have all the rights to use the roads that cars have, and pedestrians even more. Unfortunately on our narrow islands roads this can lead to conflict, with drivers in a hurry getting impatient behind a cyclist slowly grinding up a hill. While regular cyclists can get used to the close proximity of vehicles, it is a significant hurdle to the beginners. Our youth may not share our fears but it is a rare parent that doesn’t have some restrictions on where and when they can ride.

One suggestion is to widen the shoulders and give the cyclists and pedestrians space there. Following the adoption of the Magic Ferry Route, the theory is that such accommodations will be made by MOTI (Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure), but in practice such improvements depend so much on available budget and road maintenance planning that it will likely be more than 20 years before any significant progress is made (just think back to the last time your road was paved !)

Where else can we look ? If landowners are agreeable, we can put in paths across their lands, either permanent trails via easements or less formal routes via renewable agreements. It is definitely a generous landowner that grants an easement for a trail, as they are likely to lose some resale value and privacy. Sometimes easements can be negotiated during subdivision and occasionally an easement can be purchased but for the most part obtaining new easements to facilitate transportation routes is rare. A renewable term agreement is another option that carries much less negative baggage for the landowner and such agreements may become a lot easier for us once the Gulf Island Trail Society (GITS) is fully operational, but it can be hard to justify much capital investment in trail construction when it could disappear again in 6 months.

Public lands (with the exception those designated closed for security, safety or conservation reasons) can be traversed without fear of trespass and many of the MOTI statutory right of ways have been developed by our local Parks and Recreation Commission (PIPRC) as trails to ocean accesses. For the most part though, existing PIPRC trails are suitable for recreation and exercise, not getting from A to B. There are however a few spots where public lands might provide the key to opening up alternative routes.

MAP has identified two locations where alternative routes through public land could work well. The first is mostly within the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) and runs between Shingle Bay and South Otter Bay Road. Traveling mostly on an old logging road with a short (70m) rough trail before joining the end of South Otter Bay Road. Usable now for pedestrians, we have proposed it be considered for a multi-use trail by GINPR. Any decisions on this though will await the completion of their management plan.

The other location is between the Driftwood and Bedwell Harbour Road, following the public road dedication also known as the Alice Church Road. While this was designated as a gazetted road in 1923 and portions were formally surveyed when the one parcel was subdivided in 1998, it has never been used as a transportation route. The Experience the Gulf Islands program called for trail proposals at the end of 2013 and MAP identified the Einar’s Hill Bypass as the best candidate on Pender. While providing benefits such as cutting off a dangerous part of the Magic Ferry Route (Einar’s Hill) and has about half of its length already developed, it nonetheless has stirred controversy. For the landowners beside it who have been able to treat it as their private land for decades, the loss of their exclusivity is not appreciated. Some have raised ecological concerns, in part because it passes through some wetlands and also the potential for any trail to divide habitat. Others feel it is taboo to use the park for transportation (the route includes about 125 m of GINPR land). Increased risk of forest fire is another concern.

So what do we do ? Back to the roads and squeeze our kids into the traffic ? Wait for MOTI to eventually repave the roads so our (great ?) grandkids can benefit ? Try to find some landowners receptive to trails and located along a useful transportation route ? Give up ? …

Or maybe we can work together, roll up our sleeves and sort out the kinks to use public land for the community … what do you think ? Comments always appreciated ! 🙂