By Leah Blain, Observer contributor
“Legend” is the word the Shuswap Trail Alliance uses when describing Connie Harris Crowley.
When she hears this Crowley’s eyes widen in surprise for a moment before she begins to smile.
“I suppose I’m old enough to be one,” she jokes.
Crowley is officially being awarded a Senate 150 Commemorative Medal at Salmon Arm’s next council meeting. This medal is awarded to outstanding community volunteers from the interior of BC for their work in building and promoting community trails as a legacy for the future.
“I was kind of flabbergasted actually,” says Crowley, “Senator Nancy Green phoned me. I asked her, ‘How did you get my name?’ She told me she asked mayors from various towns and Nancy Cooper got my name from Phil McIntyre-Paul.”
They “chatted a bit” and then, a couple of hours later, she received a congratulatory call from Mayor Nancy Cooper.
And all this because Crowley and her husband, Tom, were into a sport that hadn’t really caught on yet here in the Shuswap.
“We had picked up cross-country skiing in Calgary. We were in Michigan and cross-country skiing was really coming on. We came here – it was a record snowfall and what we found was there were few cross-country skiers, Tom says he counts five, and there were no trails or anything. When we went we were on unplowed logging roads.”
They were always on the lookout for good places to ski and they found Larch Hills.
“They had done horse logging there in 1950s, there was deadfall and stumps. It was a good place for a trail system but it needed a lot of work.”
The small group worked hard clearing trails but they all realized it wasn’t going to develop a system very fast. They needed a plan and money. Crowley attended a conference in Ottawa for cross-country ski trail building and used the information when designing the first Larch hills loops.
“The government of Canada gave out grants to community groups to do things for the community. I made all the applications but we didn’t get it that year. We weren’t organized. I went through the trouble of an elaborate constitution and bylaws and incorporating the group as a club. In the fall of 1977 we got a grant to clear trails and I became project manager.”
They called the group Shuswap Outdoors!
“The lawyer asked me, ‘Why the exclamation point?’ and I said, ‘Because it’s such a good idea.”
Over the years Crowley, as part of Shuswap Outdoors!, helped with trails throughout the area including most of the Shuswap’s iconic alpine hiking trails, and the creation of the Mara Meadows Ecological Reserve. She helped to guide the creation of the Shuswap Trail Alliance.
She has put in countless hours to the Shuswap trail system. It was a lot of work but it was rewarding. She remembers the thrill of seeing total strangers enjoying the trails she helped build.
“It’s lovely. I like seeing other people out there. It’s fantastic.”
Mayor Nancy Cooper will be presenting Connie Crowley with her medal at City Hall at the beginning of the Dec. 11 council meeting, at 2:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome.