This presentation was recently given to the Cranbrook Rotary Club.
Presentation made to the Cranbrook Rotary Luncheon on August 14, 2014
The Cranbrook Community Forest is 2000 hectares of crown land on the eastern boundary of Cranbrook and the Eager Hills area north of Hwy 3/95. It is a semi-wilderness recreation area and is managed as an interpretive forest and protected under the Forests and Range Act regulations. It contains a mixture of forest, grassland and lakes, providing a home to an abundance of birds, waterfowl, deer, coyotes, ground squirrels, and other wildlife species, as well as amazing wildflowers and plants. There are several identified & registered archeological sites at various locations in the forest containing cultural heritage materials that many people do not even realize are there!
The CCFS is a provincially registered, non-profit society incorporated in the year 2000.
We have seven directors on our board including the president, secretary, treasurer and membership chairwoman.
The membership including family members is approximately 200 people.
The membership fee is $15 for a family and $10 for a single person. Fees have never been increased since our incorporation. These fees are our only source of consistent, annual revenue, however the Society has been successful in raising operation funds through grant applications to BC Hydro, East Kootenay Community Credit Union, Columbia Basin Trust and Recreation Sites & Trails BC.
The society was established in response to the demonstrated need for a non-government community based organization that enabled volunteers to become actively involved in the management and development of the CCF which was facing challenges that could not be adequately met through government actions alone.
The purpose of the society is to raise community awareness and support for maintaining the long term integrity of the CCF as a valuable outdoor educational and recreational asset for all members of the community and visitors alike. For this purpose funds must be raised to support projects that will help enhance visitor experience and provide opportunities for people to appreciate a healthy and diverse eco-system in a semi-wilderness setting.
In 2007 the society stepped up to the plate and entered into a Management Agreement for the CCF with Recreation Sites and Trails BC in response to an appeal from government for volunteer groups to take over some responsibilities. A new agreement was signed this year that will be in effect for 10 years. The Agreement is more detailed than our previous one, and sets out the responsibilities of both the Province and the CCFS in managing the Community Forest. An insurance clause covering any injury to registered volunteers working on sanctioned CCFS events is one of additions to the Agreement. We are also required to submit an annual report; and to complete an Operating Plan to be done on an annual basis. Two priority undertakings included in our Plan for this year are to complete a trail inventory with a corresponding map to identify issues or problems with grade or erosion on trails that may need remediation work; and, to pursue additional parking to the West of the gasline parking area that leads to Sylvan Lake. More and more people are using the Community Forest for recreation and the parking area at the ‘gasline’ often overflows onto 2nd Street South. This congestion could be solved by expanding the parking area to the West, using the city’s property, which at present is undeveloped and is already being encroached upon by people trying to squeeze in a parking space between the few trees. We have since been notified by the City Council that our request for additional parking will be directed to the 2015 budget process for consideration.
Since 2010 we have held four eco-system work bees in the forest in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Trench Natural Resources Society and Recreation Sites & Trails BC. Tasks included tree thinning and collection of brush for the chipping machine borrowed from the city for these events. This work improved the forest health by removing saplings, opening the forest floor for renewal of grasslands and encouraging mature trees to become stronger without the competition of smaller trees for water and nutrients. Volunteers were rewarded with a free bar-b-que and a fun prize draw.
We undertook the replacement of all the informational kiosks in the Southern area of the Forest and have now installed new, updated signage for seven large kiosks and numerous smaller kiosks located at the most popular trailheads providing users with a sense of security in knowing where they are and information about the CCFS and its purpose. The little interpretive signs posted around Kettle Lake providing information about the flora and fauna of that area have also been replaced with new signage this year. If you have never enjoyed this little interpretive trail (less than a kilometer) it is well worth the walk around the lake!
Last year we completed a four-year mapping project that culminated in the production of a colourful, pocket sized trail map with lots of information about the forest ecology and history and new updated trail routes. Local businesses have been very supportive in the promotion of the map by stocking it for sale in their locales. 2013 also was the year new breakaway trail signs were installed throughout the entire forest. These signs are similar to the Trans Canada Trail signs and provide trail names and arrows indicating the direction of travel for people out enjoying and exploring.
New cedar trail signs to be mounted on trees will be installed on some of the more heavily used trails this summer. A lot of the older cedar signs are very weathered and hard to read. Trail work has also been completed to prevent erosion and sloughing of side slopes on some of the “at risk” trails, and surface grip treatments were installed on bridge decks.
All of the contractors we have hired for CCFS projects have been local businesses!
The Community Forest has been the site of several mountain bike races, notably the “6 in the Stix” events that brought participants from the entire East Kootenay area into Cranbrook, and there are other cycling events held throughout the year.
The North American Orienteering Championships were held in the Eager Hills area in 2010. Over 600 participants and families from all around the world attended this event. The CCF was also the venue for the Western Canadian Orienteering championships, and, the International Orienteering Organization is considering Cranbrook as the site for a World Youth Championship. On September 7th this year the BC Long Distance Championships will be held at Eager Hills. All these types of events attract visitors to our area, adding to Cranbrook’s economy. Recently the decision of a new Doctor moving here was based in part by the outdoor lifestyle Cranbrook offers. The CCF is mentioned often in Real Estate advertising, as well.
In July we hosted a “weed pull” led by the East Kootenay Invasive Plant Council, as an educational event which also resulted in 10 big garbage bags of invasive weeds pulled and removed from the area around Sylvan Lake.
A big challenge for us has been to educate and encourage users to use the pet waste stations, located at the three main trail entrances to the forest, and clean up after their dogs. Thanks to the Playpen, who donated the sign posts and disposable bags, we have a solution to the dog poop inevitably encountered on trails, we just have to keep persisting in our efforts to get people to responsibly pick up after their pets.
We have a website and Facebook page, as well as g-mail for individuals to access for information, news, photos and announcements about the Community Forest.
Participating in local Farmers Markets has given us a chance to promote the forest and let people know it is not just an area that is out there as a free place to recreate, but it is actively managed, looked after, and protected by a committed group of volunteers operating as a non-profit society & in conjunction with the Ministry of Forests, continues to pursue improvements and educational opportunities. As you know it takes many hundreds of volunteer hours to be successful in providing opportunities and resources like this to the community.
Environmental damage caused by the illegal use of off road vehicles and dirt bikes in the forest has been a concern for many years. The Society has an ongoing security contract from June 1 to October 31 where the road is monitored and checked daily and the north entrance gate is locked overnight from 10 pm to 6 am daily to prevent unauthorized vehicle access. Still, there are individuals who continue to abuse the use of the forest, causing environmental damage. We continue to work with RSTBC Enforcement Officers trying to curtail the abuse. The introduction of off road vehicle licensing legislation by the Province, which we hope will come into effect this year, will provide an avenue to identify the vehicle operators who are trespassing, and to enforce the consequences of non-compliance.
We have worked closely with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations on all our projects to date and have received tremendous support and encouragement from them. We are proud in what we have achieved over the years but much more needs to be done to preserve this special place which can be enjoyed in all seasons by all people. The CCF is available to every citizen irrespective of age or socioeconomic status. The CCF is a vital link to maintaining good mental and physical health of our citizens. The ability for people to take part in recreational activities creates a sense of community and allows for many social interactions. On any given day the CCF is used by scores of people, including families with young children, grandparents, hikers, biking groups – people out enjoying this exceptional resource at our doorstep! Not many communities have such a unique area so close by.
We hope to maintain a lasting legacy for our community. Having responsible stewardship will preserve the Forest in perpetuity and maintain its integrity. The Cranbrook Community Forest is a remarkable place that with care and attention will be used by generations of people from Cranbrook and the surrounding area as well as providing a sustainable environment for wildlife, and a destination for tourists & visitors.