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From Wildfires to Pandemics, Partnerships & Trails Show Us the Way

Posted on May 26, 2020 by Patrick Lucas

Words by Patrick Lucas, photos by 6ix Sigma Productions and Patrick Lucas.

If you haven’t heard, the city of Quesnel, located in the heart of the Cariboo Chilcotin in the lands of the Lhtako Dene, is the home of a quickly growing network of world class mountain bike trails.  The Cariboo region has long been known as the Shangri-La of mountain biking, a quicky growing destination and home to some of the best riding in the world. The trails being built in Quesnel will further establish and enhance this reputation.

In 2017 and 2018, the region was devastated when wild fires destroyed vast swaths of forests and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of people. The Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program (AYMB), with the support of the Canada Red Cross initiated a program working with First Nations training trail crews to build single track mountain bike trails as part of the recovery efforts. This included a crew from the Lhtako Dene who worked alongside professional builders, First Journey Trails, to build new trails in and around Quesnel. The Lhtako Dene crew quickly proved themselves to be talented and enthusiastic trail builders.

In 2019, the City of Quesnel, the Cariboo Regional District, the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium, and the Gold Rush Cycling Club signed a community agreement with the Lhtako Dene Nation to create and promote non-motorized trail-based recreation initiatives. Through this agreement the Lhtako Dene Trail Crew has been contracted to undertake trail construction and maintenance with training and support from the Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Program (AYMBP) and First Journey Trails.

Ian van Leusden, Contracted Trails Coordinator for the City of Quesnel and the Cariboo Regional District in the North Cariboo Rec Area, is stoked about the Lhtako Dene Crew, saying, “[the] Lktako crew are excited and eager to work, they work well independently and follow direction and have shown the desire to improve trails around the community. They truly are a pleasure to work with.”

The City as well as the Gold Rush Cycling Club have contracted the Lhtako Crew for maintenance work on the West Fraser Timber Park as well as in the new Wonderland Trail Network and will be assisting in the completion of Mucho Oro, a highly anticipated new trail in the community. With training and assistance from First Journey and the AYMBP, the Lhtako Crew will have the skills and knowledge required to operate with appropriate procedures and protocols with regard to Covid-19 and avoiding transmission of the virus.

Trails played a critical role in the recovery from the wildfires, enhancing health and well-being and the capacity for communities to respond to the emergency. They attracted people to return and rebuild and served as a rallying point for communities deeply impacted and traumatized by the crisis. Now, during the pandemic, they are providing options for healthy active living as well as employment and desperately needed economic activity for both the City of Quesnel, the Cariboo Chilcotin and the Lhtako Dene Nation.

The City of Quesnel, Cariboo Regional District, the Gold Rush Cycling Club will continue to pursue new funding and opportunities to continue working with and retaining the services of the Lhtako Dene Nation and eagerly awaiting the day when it will be safe to welcome the world to come and ride the trails.