Map of the Sunnyside Trail from the RCA’s website.

The war over Sunnyside bike trail

Residents say the Revelstoke bike trail could pollute their water; RCA says it’s “much needed”

Residents near a new trail development said they are unhappy with how it was built and worry about possible future expansion.

“If we don’t do anything now, what will the next ten years bring?” asked Revelstoke resident Janis Hooge.

Hooge, along with roughly 25 other residents has started a letter-writing campaign against the Sunnyside Trail located on Airport Way, 12 km south of downtown Revelstoke. Hooge’s property is beside the trail.

The residents are sending letters to all levels of government and organizations that fund the Revelstoke Cycling Association, which manages the trail, asking that money to the association be severed.

READ MORE: Revelstoke Cycling Association looking at the Sunnyside

Sunnyside was built with a separate climb and downhill trail, using part of the Mount Cartier Trail, which was built in the early 1920s to access a forestry lookout near the summit.

READ MORE: On lookout: The history of — and how to get to — Revelstoke’s fire lookouts

Approval of the Sunnyside Trail began in 2017 and construction finished earlier this year.

Water concerns

One of the main concerns for nearby residents is disruption to the water table. In that area, the homes either have wells or get water directly from mountain springs.

Hooge has a water licence and bought her property in 2002. She walked the hillside for months, trying to find suitable water. When she found a small spring, Hooge said she watched it for another year to make sure it was constant.

READ MORE: Sunnyside mountain biking trails approved

“People don’t appreciate how much work went into this.”

While the water is filtered, it isn’t treated. Hooge said it’s periodically tested. She worried the Sunnyside trail network might change the amount of water in her spring as she does not know where the spring originates.

Some residents along Airport Way get their water from the area with the Sunnyside Trail. While there have been no indicates or reports that the water has been impacted/changed, the residents said they are worried it could be. Especially if the trail network is expanded, as the Revelstoke Cycling Association plans. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

According to the Ministry of Forests and Lands, a condition on the trail’s construction was that it had to be a minimum of 100 metres upslope from domestic water supplies. A provincial hydrologist did inspect the trail and determined that those measures were met.

A document from the City of Revelstoke said the city had heard from the province regarding RCA’s trail plan and the Sunnyside Trail “more than adequately” addresses any water supply concerns.

Andy Parkin, neighbour to the Sunnyside Trail, has lived on his property since 1984. According to the province, drinking water has been collected from this creek, next to the Sunnyside Trail, since 1966. The Mount Cartier Trail does cross the creek. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Regardless, the Sunnyside residents said their water may still be impacted, citing what happened several years previously to Thomas Brook, a neighbourhood near Revelstoke Mountain Resort (RMR), which got untreated water from the resort’s tenure. The reservoir was eventually contaminated and Thomas Brook had to be hooked into the city’s water supply for a hefty price tag.

READ MORE: Thomas Brook water users ponder joining city

At the moment, there is no outhouse at the Sunnyside Trail parking lot, although it appears one is under construction.

“Where are people relieving themselves? In my water,” said Buck Corrigan, another resident near the Sunnyside trail.

Sunnyside residents cite lack of local consultation

“The excavator just showed up one day,” said Corrigan.

The residents said they only learned of the development from a poster in a bike shop window last year.

“We didn’t know this was going on,” continued Corrigan.

Is Sunnyside Trail even open?

There is also confusion on whether the trail is currently open or closed. According to the Revelstoke Cycling Association’s website, it’s still closed, “while [they] resolve some administrative issues with Rec Sites & Trails BC.”

However, when Black Press reached out to Rec Sites & Trails BC, they were told the trail was open. RCA said they have not received word “officially” from the ministry that the trail is open.

There is no sign at Sunnyside that would suggest it’s closed.

The province investigates Sunnyside Trail

In July, Rec Sites & Trails BC investigated the trail and found issues of non-compliance, such as the downhill trail being two metres wide instead of 1.5 metres as per RCA’s application.

“That was an administrative error. We were always clear that we wanted a machine built flow trail and in order to build that kind of trail to Whistler standards, it has to be wider than two metres,” said Alex Cooper, vice-president of the RCA. Cooper was previously the editor of the Revelstoke Review.

While building Sunnyside, the contractor had to try various routes. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)

Other issues included removing “danger” trees without a permit and replanting vegetation in areas disturbed from the trail’s construction.

Last week, the RCA had volunteers replant that vegetation.

While the province found problems with the Sunnyside Trail, no enforcement actions were taken.

At the end of August at a Revelstoke council meeting, due to concerns from councillor Cody Younker on the province’s investigation on Sunnyside, the city decided to defer giving $30,000 to the RCA from the Resort Municipality Initiative funds.

However, after talking with the ministry and clarifying there was no enforcement action, Younker said the funding issue will be brought back to a council meeting in the next couple months.

READ MORE: City of Revelstoke hands out Resort Municipality Initiative funding

He furthered that the trails built by the RCA “are going to be a huge part of our future as a city.”

Revelstoke: a mountain biking destination

Cooper said if the RCA does not get the city’s funding, it would cause more stress on trail maintenance and expansion.

He continued the Sunnyside Trail cost up to $60,000 to build and was partly funded by the Resort Municipality Initiative which is distributed by Revelstoke City Council from the province and the Columbia Basin Trust.

According to the RCA, they would like to expand Sunnyside to include more trails and continue developing higher up the mountain.

Map of the Sunnyside Trail from the RCA’s website.

A report last year from the Ministry of Forests and Lands, noted that Revelstoke requires more mountain bike trails to meet growing demand. There are double the number of riders in Revelstoke compared to Rossland or Nelson, and an equivalent number of riders as Fernie. However, Revelstoke has fewer trails and/or fewer total kilometers of trails than either of those towns.

Cooper said the Sunnyside Trail helps Revelstoke meet that demand and is in an area that is unlikely to be logged.

In a letter to the Review, the RCA said its members, which are more than 800, have asked for a trail network like Sunnyside.

Currently, the Sunnyside Trail is part of Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s tenure. While the resort’s current mountain bike plan does not include connectivity to the Sunnyside area, Carly Moran, communications manager at RMR, said it’s a consideration for the future.

However, Cooper said such a venture would be challenging, especially building a bridge across Montana Creek.

“Not sure how we would make that happen.”

Last year, the North Columbia Environmental Society sent a letter to the Ministry of Forests citing environmental concerns with the Sunnyside Trail and lack of consultation.

The letter noted that the area is important habitat for breeding birds that are displaced from the reservoir drawdown zone, as well as habitat for western toads.

The 25 Sunnyside residents along Airport Way said they feel the Sunnyside Trail has not been properly managed thus far and would like the current trail decommissioned.

“Is a community’s water supply the best place to put this trail?”

A couple weeks ago, Black Press went to see the new trail with Hooge. Near the start of the climb trail, a biker stopped, noticing the camera.

“Are you one of those people that live in the area?” he asked.

“This trail is a good thing for the community,” he continued before pedaling off.

Later, at a meeting with other Sunnyside residents, Hooge retold that encounter, adding quietly, “Whose community is this trail for?”


 

@pointypeak701
liam.harrap@revelstokereview.com

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