Front Lines: Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society

Mar 3, 2016
by Mark Holloway  


This month, we visit the Cowichan Valley region on Vancouver Island in beautiful British Columbia. Just a short drive from the City of Duncan you’ll find several outstanding ride areas, including Maple Mountain, Mount Tzouhalem, Cobble Hill Mountain and Mount Prevost. If you've ridden any of the trails around Maple Mountain you’ve probably already met the dedicated men and women that have donated thousands of hours of their free time to help build, repair and maintain this outstanding network of trails. If not, let me introduce you to the hard working volunteers that make up the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society, the focus of this month's installment of, the Front Lines.


Duncan Area Mountain Biking Trails

Back in 2012, a group of local riders, including well-known trail builder Riley McIntosh, decided the time had come for trails in and around the Cowichan Valley to have an official voice. A voice that would work with the Municipality of North Cowichan to legalize and sanction existing trails and any newly constructed trails within the Maple Mountain area. The group took the first step and formed a not-for-profit trail association, and the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society (CTSS) was born. Wasting no time at all, CTSS submitted a proposal to the North Cowichan Forestry Committee laying out their vision of turning Maple Mountain into a world class mixed use recreational trail system.


Characters

CTSS
Riley McIntosh and Andreas Hestler on Lower Maple Syrup. Photo by Kari Medig.

CTSS


Early in 2013 the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society signed a License of Occupation with the Municipality of North Cowichan which allowed them for the first time to legally construct and maintain, mixed-use trails on Maple Mountain. The first order of business, a re-route of the original Maple Syrup trail, built by Trevor Prest many years before. Some lower sections of Maple Syrup crossed into private land and at the owner's request, the trail needed to be moved back within the forest boundaries. With the re-build of lower Maple Syrup in full swing, CTSS members took the opportunity to address any outstanding sustainability issues found on the upper portions of the trail, taking care to leave as much of Trevor's original design untouched. Members and supporters of CTSS worked tirelessly throughout the summer and into the fall to complete the project. In October of that year, the CTSS proudly hosted the official grand opening party of the newly minted Maple Syrup. The event would see 200+ riders and hikers take part and show their appreciation and support of the Society's hard work and dedication to the project.


Maple Syrup opening Day October 2013

CTSS
CTSS

CTSS



With a dinner and dance fundraiser, MEC grant, local business sponsor and support and of course individual donations, CTSS was able to focus on the completion of their new climbing trail. A trail that would allow riders to avoid having to use a forest road to access upper Maple Syrup. Dedicated members spent weekend after weekend, wielding Pulaskis and MacLeods cutting in kilometer after kilometer of new trail. When all was said and done, the Society dedicated over 2000 volunteer hours and an entire season to the completion of the 9 km trail, now known simply as, the Climbing Trail. Combine this with the 9 km Maple Syrup descent and Maple Mountain now has a fully sanctioned, 18 km loop.



CTSS
Maple Mountain Enduro

Photo Credit Chris Istace


Along with the completion of their 18 km loop, 2015 would see CTSS achieve many other great successes. They were able to complete and submit their Mt. Tzouhalem Assessment to the Municipality of North Cowichan; the assessment is currently being reviewed by the Municipality and CTSS hopes to soon receive the green light to begin the exciting task of officially maintaining much of the existing trail system within the Mt Tzouhalem area. The newly constructed trails allowed local bike shops and cycling groups to host multiple mountain bike races, attracting riders from all over the province, bringing revenue into the local economy and helping fund future CTSS projects. The CTSS also collaborated with Hiiye’yu Lelum (House of Friendship) Society on their Story Trails Program. The program gives teens the opportunity to shed the four walls of traditional school and learn life skills like teamwork, organization and goal setting, all while learning the fine art of trail building from Riley McIntosh.



Story Trails leader Riley McIntosh with a group of students. PHOTO Dave Silver

Story trails building

Photo Credit Chris Istace


The tremendous success of the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society in such a short amount of time speaks volumes to the leadership of the board and the dedication of its small group of members. As a group they decided early on that building a solid foundation by growing positive relationships with the Municipality of North Cowichan and local sponsors was more important than growing their membership numbers. They also credit their success to other organizations like NSMBA, SORCA and UROC that paved the way and proved that when associations work together with local municipalities on trail projects, truly amazing things can happen.


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CTSS
CTSS


2016 and beyond is shaping up to be a very exciting time for Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society and its members. With the Mt. Tzouhalem project on the horizon and further expansion of Maple Mountain trail system planned, the time has never been better to become a member of this great organization. To keep up to date on the latest Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society news and events be sure to check out their FaceBook page and keep on the lookout for the announcement of their exciting new website. If you’d like to support the spectacular trails in and around the Cowichan Valley, consider earning some Trail Karma by donating to the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society.


Beverly Seip amidst the moss of Cowichan. Photo by Paris Gore




MENTIONS: @Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society / @Cowichan Valley Cycling Club / @Cowichan Cycle / @Cycle Therapy / @trailforks / @Experience Cycle / @Dave Silver / @DSPhoto / @leftcoastmediahouse / @parisgore / @Chris Istace / @Stasher_SK


Are you interested in seeing your association or trails featured in a future Front Lines article?

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60 Comments

  • + 46
 Wow, thanks for all the wonderful comments everyone! This is why we build trails and dedicate so much time and resources for awesome people like you! Follow us on Facebook and we hope to have the new website live soon.
  • + 12
 I was very impressed riding Maple last spring, definitely coming back for a ride this summer!
  • + 2
 Riding Maple Syrup last summer on a trip up from the US was an absolute blast. Super fun riding in a beautiful spot on the island! The climbing route was really excellently done, and added to the experience greatly. I took a wrong turn and ended up wrapping up the climb on the fire road, which re-enforced what a great job the build crew did on the climbing trail.
  • + 2
 Great trail, built well. Someone need to build a DH Trail on Maple, it would be insane!
  • + 2
 You never know what the future may hold, until then we will be working on Mt Tzouhalem to sanction and clean up the trail network there. Of course shuttle runs on Prevost are always an option for that addiction Smile
  • + 2
 Thanks @Stasher Looking forward to everything you guys are working on. Keep up the good work. Jane still involved?
  • + 2
 Sure am...behind the scenes Smile
  • + 1
 @GISJane There you are (it's Spencer). Glad to hear you're still around. Big Grin
  • + 17
 I would argue that the Maple Mountain climb is one of the best climb trails on the coast. It has amazing flow, perfect grade:-)
  • + 4
 100% agree. it was such a pleasure to ride up when i was out in the summer, best climbing trail i have had, ever.
  • + 2
 It made climbing FUN!
  • + 7
 "The first order of business, a re-route of the original Maple Syrup trail, built by Trevor Prest many years before." Thanks to the shout out to Trevor. I know it means a lot to him
  • + 3
 Agreed. Trevor's a humble man that has built some amazing trail on Maple...we are excited to add in his Tony's trail to the network as soon as we get approval.
  • + 9
 The riding on the Island is BCs best kept secret.
  • + 1
 Shhhh! Don't tell anyone! I won't be able to ride completely alone anymore! JK, it is such a treat when people come to the island and are totally shocked by our trails. "I had no idea this existed!" might be the most common phrase from non-island riders when they come over here. Come check us out, the trails are sick! Hell, if you ask nice, I would probably even show you around!
  • + 2
 I completely agree, we take great pride in meeting new riders in the area and chatting with them. Hearing their feedback and stories is so rewarding.
  • + 1
 Definitely. It's a great place to call home if you are a mountain biker. Smile
  • + 8
 The Maple Syrup looks yummy. Time to schedule a trip to the island. :-)
  • + 6
 Prevost is not good, so don't go there. The DH trails are not amazing. The ferries are all booked anyway so just forget about it!
  • + 7
 Get your rollerblades out!
  • + 1
 I've got my longboard ready to go!
  • + 2
 had the possibility to stay in the area at my last year's BC trip - riding the beautiful trails and meeting the amazing community around Riley (thanks again for accommodation!!), Chris and the others. Go out and ride maple - one of the best loops out there!!
thumbs up guys, cant wait to come over again in the future
  • + 4
 What is the best way to migrate do Canada ?
  • + 8
 Come from Syria.
  • - 2
 @cmcrawfo
pinkbike doensn´t need your ingnorance
  • + 4
 A great success story! Thannks CTSS volunteers. Well done.
  • + 3
 You are doing such a great job! I can't wait to come back see how things evolve!
  • + 1
 maple syrup is a blast! its been a few years since i"ve ridden it, gotta check out the climbing route! that was a looooong grind up the road lol
  • + 1
 Wow, looks great. I definitely want to ride the Maple loop this spring/summer, need to plan some more work trips to the island it seems Smile
  • + 2
 Beautiful trails. I'm in! Maybe I'll even try to incorporate a build day in the mix.
  • + 1
 Awesome job. I wish stuff like this happened in San Diego. I can't even imagine how much work could get done with that many hands versus digging alone.
  • + 3
 Great trails, thanks for all the hard work!
  • + 2
 @mickmart my family has a place about an hour and a half drive from Duncan...
  • + 2
 @nimmo damn!! looks like a road trip this summer is in the works! My best friend's family lives in Parksville as well so we can go ride Duncan one and Parksville second! Where do I sign up!?
  • + 3
 Should probably check out Cumberland while your at it. Wink
  • + 1
 Thanks for the tip!
  • + 1
 @primodeelux Thanks!

@nimmo we've got a road trip starting to form in front of us!!
  • + 1
 Was just there a few weeks ago. My new favorite. Maple syrup is an amazing trail!
  • + 1
 Was thinking of Hokkaido, but looks like BC wins out again. Pass me my bike and a green lighter, I'm on my way!
  • + 1
 Sweet! If only @Traks-Malaysia could get half the amount of people to show up on traildays!
  • + 1
 Thanks to all the great volunteers that make stuff like this happen!
  • + 1
 If this rain will ever stop, I think a day trip down Island is in order.
  • + 1
 All that work, then 1:04!
  • + 1
 Those two riders did much of the work on that trail (the climbing portion) so I'm sure they can be given a little leeway for that :-). I'm sure they went back and fixed it afterward!
  • + 1
 Yes they did, a major section of the last 1/3 of the mountain was built by them via RFP process last building season. We thank them for all their efforts to give back to their local trails.
  • + 1
 I may have found my next vacation!
  • + 0
 dirt looks incredible, trails maybe a bit bland and pavey either way, it's beautiful and I'd love to check it out someday
  • + 3
 What? Don't let a few pics fool you. Maple isn't bland. Think rock faces, some old school tech and new school berms.
  • + 2
 The climbing trail is wide and accommodating for riding up the mountain in both directions. The fun starts when you head downhill on Maple Syrup , like CircusMaximus stated the black diamond tech with steep drops , rock faces, wood structures and fast berm sections.
  • + 2
 Well shit, I'm sold!
  • + 1
 What A TRAIL with Great FLOW I need a Maple Syrup Vacation really soon
  • + 1
 I just love living in the Cowichan Valley,
  • + 1
 Looks awesome!
  • + 0
 still need to ride maple!
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