Revamping Fort St. James trails

Trails in Fort St. James are getting a facelift this summer with grooming and new signage.

Wayne Moll

The Trail Improvement Project is underway and trails west and south of Stuart Lake will soon be getting a long-awaited facelift.

The Snowmobile Society owns and maintains a large portion of Fort St. James’ recreational trails.  In recent years, the society has installed three bridges with the help of time-and-material donations from various community members to help stop obstruction of fish streams. Now the main focus has shifted to improving the trails with grooming and signage, said Wayne Moll, vice president of Fort St. James Snowmobile Society.

“With more tourists arriving in town we would like to improve the safety of our trail network with better grooming and signage to indicate where you are, at what kilometre, on what trail, and where to go next,” said Mr. Moll.

The plan is to have large colour-coated kilometre signs and directional arrows placed throughout the trails, along with nine large colour-coated maps placed at key locations. The society is also in the works of producing hand-held map brochures to make available at various outdoor recreation and tourist outlets.

“Iv’e seen other trail maps and there black-and-white and it’s hard to figure out. That’s why were doing it in colour,” said Mr. Moll.

The improvement project has been in the works for a few years but got rolling this year with the help of five key contributors. A total of $41,000 was given in grant money towards the project.

The society plans to use a large portion of the money towards a new Razor ATV that a newly-donated trail groomer will hitch onto. Special options for the Razor including closed doors, a radio and a heater are being looked at since the average age of the executive is 63. The two people grooming the trails last year were Ed Hill 82, and Grant Luck 78.

During the grant applying process, one of the main contributors, Integris Union Community Foundation, made it known that the money they give is not to be used for a machine. Being one of the larger donations, it was fortunate that they later agreed to have their grant spent on the add-ons for the ATV and any left-over monies on signage and grooming.

“We’ve been trying for five years to get the ball rolling on this and since April everything has just popped into place,” said Mr. Moll.

The group already has a mock design of the maps made up so the actually signs should be seen up by mid August, said Mr. Moll. A project plan submitted to Northern Development Initiative Trust has the entire project scheduled for completion by April 2015. “We want to get the Razor before October so the trails can get groomed before first snow fly. We tried to also work it around the Caledonia Classic which is in February, so it should be done before then,” said Mr. Moll.

The Fort St. James Snowmobile club started in 1972 and became a society in 1998. They started out with the old 81-acre fairgrounds for their club house and with the help of volunteers kept local trails groomed and accessible. Now, they have 300 km of trail tenured with the BC government that are used by residents and tourists alike for anything from hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, cross country skiing, snowmobiles and dog sledding.

“We get people coming from Prince George and Vanderhoof. We even had people from the Yukon and Switzerland inquire about coming to learn dog sledding, so that’s international. The trails will be wider, safer and better looking. It’s definitely going to bring people to town,” said Mr. Moll.

For more information after the Fort St. James Snowmobile club visit their FaceBook page www.facebook.com/FortStJamesSnowmobileClub.