The Smithers Snowmobile Association is slowly but surely upgrading one of the most popular trails in the Bulkley Valley.
The Onion Mountain Trail on Babine Mountain is roughly 10 kilometres long and was previously an old mining road. It provides one of many access points to the Babine Mountain Provincial Park and serves motorized and non-motorized uses including hiking, horseback riding, skiing and snowmobiling.
Currently, the trail is narrow, windy and being encroached on by bushes, making it difficult for groomers to maintain.
The association has raised approximately 50 per cent of the estimated $38,285 cost.
Upgrades are expected to take just under two weeks and include 3,200 metres of brushing, 2,600 metres of widening road surface, 1,200 metres of ditching, straightening corners, removing dangerous snags and windfalls, and adding culverts and water bars.
“It’s our hardest trail to groom every year,” said Ron Fowler, president of the snowmobile association who is in charge of maintaining the trails. “It’s been a long time coming and it’s a concern of our groomer operators for ease of grooming and also as a safety aspect, it does get pretty narrow as the season progresses.”
Aside from regular maintenance, there have not been any major upgrades made to the trail, he noted.
So far, they have $19,143 in funding (most of which came from membership fees) and $5,000 in the form of a grant from the BC Parks enhancement fund.
They have also submitted an application requesting an additional $19,143 in funding from the National Trails Coalition.
According to Fowler, the upgrades are necessary to make the trails safer for users and people who maintain it.
“It’s going to provide employment to a bunch of locals, all that money stays in the community,” he said. “It’s going to enhance the trail to make it safer, not only for our groomers, but it’s also going to be wider and we’ll be taking some of the sharp corners out and straighten some of the corners. It’s definitely going to be a much safer trail.”
John Howard with BC Parks, whose responsibilities include managing the day-to-day operations of the park, said the changes will not only benefit people who use the trails, but the local economy as well.
“It definitely brings an economic benefit to the local economy — gas, hotels, groceries, and those kinds of things,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool that [the association is] trying to help and get funding for this project.”
The Bulkley Valley Search and Rescue, the Justice Institute of B.C., and the Canadian Avalanche Centre are some of the organizations that use the trails for safety training on a regular basis.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” added Fowler.
The upgrades will commence shortly and anyone using the trails over the next couple of weeks should be aware that there may be delays.
They hope the upgrades will be completed by September 2015.
There are approximately 1,000 snowmobilers within the Bulkley Valley who use the trails on an annual basis.