New wilderness trail is a great way for Penelakut Island kids to get outside to ride bikes, walk and be more active. (Photo by Dave Silver Photography)

Penelakut Island students connect to construct wilderness trail

Initiative a labour of love for the community for recreation, healing and learning

An initiative undertaken by the Penelakut Tribe is a huge step forward for the island community.

It’s all about to come to fruition with the grand opening of the Spaal ‘i’ Skwitth’uts Shelh trail next Wednesday, April 24 around 10:30 a.m., pending the arrival of the ferry from Chemainus, at Penelakut Island Elementary School.

The historic 1.5 kilometre wilderness trail has been constructed by more than 100 children aged 5-13, with assistance from friends and relatives.

Riley McIntosh Enterprises has been proud to play a part in the venture.

“It’s been incredibly positive and tons of kids are learning teamwork, overcoming challenges and connecting to their territory,” said McIntosh, who has also worked with other First Nations on similar initiatives.

“I’m just a contractor,” he added. “I just always want to put the focus on the Tribe I’m working for and not myself.”

In this day and age of kids spending abundant time on devices, McIntosh is pleased how this group has embraced the plan from the beginning and stayed so focused on it.

The Penelakut’s financial and emotional backing has been huge for the kids.

“It’s an initiative they’ve chosen to invest in with the idea of building community recreation and health benefits,” said McIntosh, who began his involvement last September.

“The trail we’ve built, it’s done,” he said. “We’ve been working on it since November.”

The public is invited to take part in the grand opening where there will be the unveiling of signs and cedar cutting, and a Penelakut dance group followed by cake, a plant walk and hot dogs in the gym.

The Spaal ‘i’ Skwitth’uts Shelh trail was created to make opportunities for children to connect to their traditional territory while learning skills, practicing teamwork and building a beautiful trail for their families and relations to enjoy.

Besides the trail, there’s also four healing circles. Every single student of the school, along with staff, many family members and relations contributed to the project.

Many workshops have also taken place for such things as bike skills, bike fixing, duck plucking, an oyster bake, guided plant walks, animal hide tanning and deer processing.

The trail has quickly become a place of safe and family-oriented recreation and appreciation for the residents’ beautiful island home.

McIntosh said members of the public who’d like to join the opening festivities should catch the 10:10 a.m. ferry from Chemainus to arrive in time.

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The community has really come together on Penelakut Island through the building of a new wilderness trail and related activities. (Photo by Dave Silver Photography)

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