Close to 200 people gathered in the Village Commons, in Mansons Landing, to celebrate the opening of the new Rainbow Ridge Trail System. There were 177 ticket stubs for the door prize and some people wandered in after that. As it was a hot summer’s day, most of them clung to shade beneath trees, awnings and the main tent.
Rose and Brenda Hanson, from the Klahoose First Nation, opened the ceremony.
“This is a song you all are likely familiar with. It’s very fittingly titled ‘The Welcome Song.’ It was composed multiple years ago with my mom Rose, her sister my Auntie Helen and her other sister Auntie Marge. Little did we know, at that time, that this song would travel so far. I’m so grateful and honoured that it has been used with such high purpose since its creation and I’m very happy and pleased to be here to share it with you today,” said Brenda.
She used the Salish names for the Klahoose Nation and their territory, adding their song is for ‘all the people that come from other places and other lands.’
“The song expresses, we are so very grateful in our hearts that you have come. Welcome, welcome to these lands.”
Sandra Wood, Executive Director of the Cortes Housing Society, cut the ribbon opening the trails.
“We’re very excited to share with the community the Rainbow Ridge connections to neighbouring properties. That’s going to make it possible for people to walk between the Seniors Village, the Health Centre and the school towards Manson’s Hall via the Rainbow Ridge property and the Village Commons property. It’s a new trail system that’s connecting from east to west, a number of nonprofit properties in the Manson’s corridor. We’ve also made improvements on the north-south connection of Rainbow Ridge so that it better connects with the Siskin Forest Trail system. We’ve moved part of the trail to higher ground on Rainbow Ridge so that it will be a drier trail through the winter months,” she explained.
“These trails are part of a bigger vision of having active transportation and a network of trails where people can walk and bicycle. It’s part of climate change adaptation to use your vehicle less. It’s part of getting out and exercising and being in nature, and it’s part of just being in community and bumping into your neighbour on the trails. We had a lot of reasons to develop this trail network on Rainbow Ridge. Someday there’s going to be 24 families who live in the rental town homes that we plan to build on Rainbow Ridge, but these public trails are something that will be there for everyone in the community, as well as visitors to Cortes.”
“I think it’s an important part of keeping the Rainbow Ridge property in community hands and enjoyed by the public. I also think it’s part of another bigger strategy where there’s a lot of key properties now owned by the Cortes Island Senior Society, the Southern Community Association (SCCA) which owns Manson’s Hall, the Cortes Island Community Foundation and the Cortes Community Economic Development Association (CCEDA), who own the Village Commons, as well as the Housing Society that own the Rainbow Ridge property. We’ve got all this fantastic community land in community hands, and I think these trails are really helping us to connect all of those parcels together to make these corridors possible and connecting to the wider park system, like the Siskin Trail network and even the School to Sea Trail system that will take people to Manson’s dock and Manson’s Lagoon. You’ll be able to go all the way from that northernmost part of Manson’s by trail as far south as Smelt Bay Provincial Park. It’s a really important way to connect our community.”
Cortes Currents first became aware of what was to become known as the Rainbow Ridge project five years ago, when I interviewed Priya Huffman and David Rousseau.
Huffman was one of the greeters at today’s ceremony.
“My thoughts are that we celebrate the victories that we can, even as we move forward towards the things that we are yet aspiring to. Many of us are still deeply disappointed that the project of securing housing for the +20 units has been delayed through COVID and the seizing up of grants,” she said.
“The whole community needs housing and we are disappointed, but in the meantime, we were able to pull this off. This is also something that we need. After five years of planning, we have connected all the pathways, off-road pathways that will allow us to walk from Manson’s all the way to Smelt Bay from the Senior’s Village to the Co-op. This is a beautiful thing in and of itself. So we celebrate this today and keep working as a community to manifest that which we need even more or equally.”
In an interview the previous day, Wood told Cortes Currents:
“These trails were made possible through donations from local community members in addition to a major Government of Canada grant from the Healthy Communities Initiative, administered through the Community Foundations of Canada.”
“The total grant was $99,000. This made it possible for us to widen the trails, improve old trails and create more trails. There is another phase of this project (financed through the same grant) to rebuild the deck, on Manson’s Community Hall. That will be happening over the next year, so that these trails will connect to vibrant village spaces.”
“Manson’s Hall is the core of the downtown area. People are going to the Friday Market; they’re coming there for exercise classes, they’re coming to get their mail. It’s a central gathering place in the community.”
“These trails will help people travel to and from downtown Mansons, to access the shops and services, but be able to do that off-road so they don’t have to drive there. They can find alternate means of transportation that will be providing exercise as well as protecting the environment with less cars, we hope, in the downtown Manson’s core.”
CC: There’s a couple of segments of the trail that intrigued me. One of them is the gravel segment that goes behind the fire hall. Why is it gravel and what does that do?
“Originally our plan was to cover all of the new trails with wood chips. They were going to be wood chips donated from the Strathcona Regional District’s chipping program on Cortes, from the local mills and chips donated from the BC Hydro crews who are doing the roadside clearing in the ditches along the roads. We were going to be the recipients of all of those chips.”
Then the SRD was not going to do the chipping program on Cortes this year. The mills did not have a lot of chips. We received some chips from the BC Hydro crews, but we didn’t have enough chips to do everything that we hoped to do.
There’s still a surface chipping program that will on the trails continue over the next several months.
“The section of the trail, which I’ll call the east west corridor is a brand new trail. It runs between the Health Centre, the seniors village, along the fire hall fence, towards Rainbow Ridge and the Village Commons.”
“Originally we were going to put chips there and then we realized that the fire hall has the major heliport on their property. That’s the medical evacuation emergency heliport. When the helicopter comes and goes, it creates a terrific down wind force that would blow wood chips into the air and create a tornado of debris. That’s when we realized that we should actually put in gravel instead so that the trail topping stays secure.”
“I want to say a shout out to Island United who delivered and spread the gravel on that section. They gave us a really, really good price because of it being for a good community cause and as a contribution to the charity which the Cortes Housing Society is.”
CC: There’s another segment of the path that is wood chips, and you’ve probably explained it before, but why wood chips?
SW: “We wanted to use natural material as much as possible, and the chips will help suppress the regrowth of the salal and grasses so that it’ll be a low maintenance surface. We want to keep the regrowing of the undergrowth down as much as possible. It also is a nice soft surface to walk on for people and pets. The plan is to do the trails with a chip topping. And normally there are a lot of chips available on Cortes, but this summer there’s been a shortage of chips. So the trails that have not been chipped yet, that will be something we will complete over time.”
CC: You also mentioned some development on these trails going south towards Siskin Lane.
SW: “The old logging road that ran from the north end to the south end of the Rainbow Ridge property, started out at a good width, six feet or eight feet wide. The trail got narrower and narrower until it became a single footpath.”
“It was a muddy stream bed in the winter. It was basically part of the stormwater system, which made it really muddy for pedestrians and bikes because it was on low ground.”
“We’ve closed the section that became a creek bed, and we’ve moved the trail to higher ground so that it will stay drier through the winter months. We really hope that this trail will be open and used year-round.”
‘We also wanted to connect the south end of the trail so that it links up perfectly with the Siskin Forest Trail system.”
“In the past, the two trails did not connect and it made it really confusing, especially for tourists and visitors and first time users because they’d pop out on Cemetery Road and not know where the trail connected. So we’ve made that alignment clear and we’re working on trail signage and trail maps that will help keep people on track with their wayfinding when they’re headed to a destination.”
CC: Who’s maintaining the trails?
SW: “Well, hopefully it’s going to be a combination of volunteers and users. Ultimately a lot of the parks have maintenance provided by the Friends of Cortes Island because the parks are maintained by a fund that the Strathcona Regional District provides. In the long term, that’s one option to explore, but in the short term it’s going to be volunteers and the people who use the trails whose responsibility it is to pick up trash if they see it. Don’t drop trash when there are other options. If you’re bringing it in, pack it out.”
Sandra Wood wanted to specifically thank some of the people involved in the Rainbow Ridge Trails project.
“I wanted to thank the Klahoose for providing wood chips from their mill and for providing three beautiful benches that are now on the trails. We hope to add more benches over time.”
“We really have to say thank you to the people who have donated not only to the trail project, but who have donated time and energy towards creating firewood out of the trees that were removed to widen the trails. The firewood was gifted to people who needed it, or wanted it.”
“We had a great crew of trail builders, professional tree fallers, tree limbers and pruners, and people who had the excavators and brought the machinery for splitting the logs. It was a huge endeavour and I want to thank everybody who helped make the trails happen. Our project manager Suzanne Fletcher, has done a great job at not only bringing the trails project to fruition, but in coordinating the special opening event.”
At the opening, people enjoyed free pizza, bannock bread with a salmon spread, a flavoured chocolate drink from Black Jaguar Chocolate and other edible goodies. There were pony rides along the trails, hair styling, finger nail painting and other activities. The first door prize was dinner for 4 at Hollyhock, second prize was a flower bouquet from the Hollyhock garden. A series of display panels explained details of the project. people from the Cortes Community Housing Society were on hand to answer questions. Directors and staff from the Cortes Community Housing Society were on hand to answer questions about the trails and the future affordable housing project on Rainbow Ridge.
Top photo credit: Unidentified woman sprinting towards the event greeters (Priya Huffman and Elizabeth Anderson) – Photo by Roy L Hales
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