A walker enjoys an outing on the trail next to the E&N railway line in Chemainus.

A walker enjoys an outing on the trail next to the E&N railway line in Chemainus.

First step taken in Island-wide hiking & walking trail strategy

Development of a hiking and walking trails strategy for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast

Tourism Vancouver Island has taken the first step in its development of a hiking and walking trails strategy for Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the Sunshine Coast with the release of an Inventory of Hiking & Walking Trails for the region.

“A well informed hiking and walking trails strategy, and decisions about the future of trails in region, need to be based on a sound understanding of the supply, distribution, characteristics and conditions of trails within the region,” says the introduction to the report, produced by Stantec Consulting Ltd.

“In addition to inventorying the trails, the project team worked collaboratively with trail partners throughout the region to identify criteria that could be used during the development of the strategy to identify which trails have greatest suitability to attract tourists.”

More that 235 trails were inventoried in the study, stitched together the trails would add up to a hike of 1,900 kilometres. Findings have been integrated into a ‘user-friendly’ database that assesses trails based on “48 different attributes ranging from general trail information, visitor experience to trail design attributes.”

Adds the Executive Summary, “The inventory data was analyzed and notable findings to be considered in the development of the Hiking and Walking Trail Tourism Strategy were identified.”

Developing that strategy is step-two in the process, which was started when surveys showed that 50 per cent of visitors to Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast choose to go hiking during their visits, even if that was not their primary motivation for coming.

“It makes sense to leverage that fact and create a plan to effectively market, manage, and improve the hiking trails in the region,” said Tourism Vancouver Island CEO Dave Petryk Nov. 9

“Tourism Vancouver Island is embarking on the second phase of a three-phase project to do exactly that,” he said. “Now that we have baseline data, we can start the work of developing a strategic plan to align visitor needs and expectations with the supply of trails here on the Island and Sunshine Coast.”

The project will work with ‘stakeholder groups’ identifying gaps in ‘our trail product’ and seeing how the region can “improve and transform these existing assets into international market ready tourism attractions.”

Tourism Vancouver Island has pegged the value of the second-phase of the project at $60,000. The Island Coastal Economic Trust is providing $30,000, Recreation Sites and Trails BC will kick in another $20,000, and the region’s communities will make up the balance.