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Paddlefest to help launch marine trail

As this year’s Paddlefest draws near

May 14 will mark not only Ladysmith’s beloved Paddlefest, but also the opening of the BC Marine Trails Network.The trails will turn the page on a new chapter of marine tourism as people-powered vessels and their occupants will now have clearly designated areas to rest or seek shelter from rough seas.Paddlefest will witness the opening of the Gulf Island and West Vancouver Island Marine Trails Network.Steve Herringer, spokesperson for the project, is glad to see the province jumping onboard with the project, noting the trails are a provincial asset.“The ultimate plan is to have a marine trail running all the way from Washington state to Alaska with the campsites/pullout sites every (16 km),” said Herringer.That includes around Vancouver Island.Once complete, the trail will stretch 22,000 km of coast line, making it the longest continuous water trail on the planet.The stops are basically designated campsites with pictures and GPS co-ordinates, said Herringer. They will also be marked on Google Earth.Nothing has been done to alter the sites, such as clearing.“They’d be in a place where water is nearby and there is a place to camp.”Some of the areas include federal and provincial parks where there are some extra amenities.“But it would also go through crown land where there is no development.”Local marine trails representative, Paul Grey, said this is huge for Ladysmith.“This is the opening of a trail that is 22,000 km long. It’s a significant event.”The impact of the trail will be felt not only in Ladysmith, said Grey, but in other communities looking for ways to hook tourists.Grey said they have been working with communities up and down the coast and noted everyone has been very co-operative.Ladysmith’s marine trail access point will be the Maritime Society. Other access sites are in Chemainus, Crofton, Cedar and Nanaimo.Herringer said they hope to have the maps up on said they are not trying to draw routes for people, as there are many ways people can travel through the Gulf Islands.“We are identifying access sites and the primary sites of the trail and there are alternate sites as well.”For the grand opening, a flotilla of paddlers will be arriving at Transfer Beach in the afternoon after having visited the Gulf Island stops.“We are trying to gather as many kayakers to be on the water at that time and converge on Transfer Beach.”The ceremonies will be starting around 1 p.m. with the arrival of speakers, VIPs and kayakers at Transfer Beach.Bud Bell, president of Paddlefest and owner of Sealegs Kayaking on Transfer Beach is thrilled to see the trails opening and finally getting government support.Paddlefest planning, said Bell, is coming along well.So far around 35 vendors have confirmed for the two-day event at Transfer Beach.There will also be films featured throughout the event, demonstrations and clinics.The local Coast Guard Auxiliary will also be present to talk about marine safety and their roles in rescues.“They are going to put on some displays and scenarios on the water,” said Bell.Bell said the success of Paddlefest has everything to do with their dedicated volunteers and organizations like the Town of Ladysmith and Parks and Recreation.Bell said the new marine trails will be great in helping open up some land, both public and private, and add to the already strong kayaking industry on the coast.It will also get people on the water safely, giving paddlers definite areas to be able to pull off.Bell also hopes the promotion of the trail will push some entrepreneurs to set up their own campgrounds along the path.Bell waxed poetic about what we have along the B.C. coast, comparing it to some of the most-popular spots in the world.“We have some of the best (routes) right here. It’s unbelievable.”Paddlefest runs May 14 and 15 at Transfer Beach.

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