(Thanks to Alf Skrastins for the story and photos)
The volunteers of the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association have been planning
and building and improving the trails at West Bragg Creek for the past 5 years.
They have transformed the old 45 km of poorly maintained ski trails into an amazing network of 106km of all season (mountain bike-hike-equestrian-snowshoe) and cross country ski trails. Remarkably, this has been accomplished by about 10,000 hours of volunteer work and hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
Here is just one example of the volunteer work that goes into XC trail development.
The West Crystal Line trail was originally just a re-purposed seismic cut-line. One of its biggest problems is that it crossed a bog at the west end. This would either become an ice-flow or a slush trap and it was a tough spot for groomers to make a good trail. Alberta Parks approved a plan to re-route the trail to avoid the bog.
Over the winter and into the spring, volunteers scouted possible alignments that would be free of water seepage problems and would be fun to ski. By June a good route was selected.
Next, volunteers felled, bucked up and removed trees along the new route. Then the stumps were removed and an excavator and bulldozer built a good, smooth tread for the trail.
More volunteers measured, cut and assembled the bridge in a meadow near the West Bragg Creek parking lot. The pieces were marked and disassembled. The 5000 kg of bridge parts needed to be transported two kilometers across soft ski trails to the new bridge site.
This was accomplished by a group of volunteers that included six magnificent draft horses. Each powerful team would tow one of the 12 meter long stringers or a wagon load of beams or decking over the rolling hills of the West Crystal Line trail. By the end of the day, all of the materials had been delivered to the site.
Last weeks early October snow-storm delayed work for several days, until the snow melted and the site dried up a bit. Last weekend a team of volunteers constructed the abutments and fitted the stringers into place. On October 11, another volunteer work party will finish the bridge by attaching the decking and trim.
So this winter, when you’re enjoying your cross country ski on the new West Crystal Line Trail, take a moment to think about the volunteer effort that went into creating this experience for you. Better yet, make a donation to the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association or make a commitment to volunteer on a trail project.