Volunteers who have been working on a hiking/biking trail to connect the Sunshine Coast to Squamish were disappointed to hear this fall that the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO) has refused permission for a section of the route between Pokosha Pass and the Clowhom River.
The rejection letter states: “The proposed trail would provide access to and traverse high value Grizzly Bear habitat. Any recreational use in the area will result in significant negative impacts on a critically endangered grizzly bear population.”
However, lead trail proponent, Geoff Breckner of Squamish, is still hopeful of gaining permission for an alternate route skirting the boundary of Tantalus Provincial Park.
Interviewed by email, Breckner said “It’s a better route really, slightly longer than through the existing (non legal) boulder route below. But we don’t know what they will say about it.”
Breckner, who has been working on the Squamish end of the route for several years, noted: “I knew it would be a red tape nightmare going for approval.”
The 70-kilometre route starts on the west side of the Squamish River about 20 kilometres north of Squamish, and cuts west and south up Ashlu Creek to Pokosha Pass. This segment of the trail is approved and trailbuilding efforts have focused on this area.
Beyond Pokosha pass, trailbuilders intend to scout a new route down into the Clowhom watershed to connect with a logging road along Clowhom Lake, which drains into Salmon Inlet.
At Salmon Inlet the flagged route turns south toward Howe Sound, going over Polytope Pass to the Rainy River valley. A 20-kilometre stretch of road follows the Rainy River to Port Mellon.
All the sections remaining to be approved are in the SCRD. A short section of the trail at Polytope Pass falls within the boundaries of Tetrahedron Provincial Park.
The original plan was to follow Salmon Inlet to Sechelt Inlet and then to Sechelt, but Gibsons trailbuilder Dick Culbert, who died this year, proposed the more direct and less technically challenging route to Port Mellon.
Although several people have managed to traverse the entire distance, including Culbert’s son, Vance, sections of the trail are only a flagged route through very rugged back country that requires bushwhacking. Roberts Creek mountain biker Bjorn Enga attempted the route eastbound on an e-bike in September 2017, but had to abandon the trip on his third day, just short of Pokosha Pass.
Posting to the trail’s Facebook group, Breckner reminded prospective users that the route is challenging. “This is deep backcountry with a technical up and down trail of varying ground surface cover and ease of travel.” The trail also traverses high elevations where snow can persist into July.
Breckner said that if the trail is approved, FLNRO will require amenities. “They also want an overall map of route and a maintenance plan, where the shelters and toilets would be.”