This past week, amid crisis and flooding in alberta, AJ and I visited the small valley town of Invermere, BC, just west of the Rockies. This visit was a follow up to last year’s trail building school, with loftier goals: getting the larger community on board to support trail access in the region.

We kicked off the weekend with a new presentation for Canadian clubs, entitled "Better Living Through Trails." The 1 hour powerpoint discusses the many benefits of trails, including health, community development, youth engagement, and economic impact. It also reviews some tips and best practices to make your community a trails destination.

Despite panic in the town (including a number of bridges closed, gas shortage, and foodstuffs shortage in local grocery stores), we had a fantastic turnout, including the Mayor of Invermere, Mayor of Radium, Parks Canada staff, representatives from local and provincial land managers, local business owners, and of course, trail users. The meeting was quite successful, with participants discussing what trails meant to them personally, both for recreation and benefit to their community or business.

Our workshop was quite timely for trail users in Invermere, as many of the town’s recreational groups had recently partnered to form a new trails alliance. The Columbia Valley Greenways Trails Alliance (CVGTA), which represents almost 600 users across many disciplines, seeks to "work in partnership to advocate the development, maintenance and responsible use of sustainable trails on public and private lands to promote year round healthy living and community values."

For AJ and I, this was fantastic news to hear! We visit many communities where trail users don’t get along, or simply aren’t connected. This means that users often struggle individually for trail access, grants and funding, and political clout – working to similar goals, but by themselves. Even worse is when said clubs compete against each other, leaving it up to time-strapped land managers and decision makers to weigh in on who deserves resources for trail building or land access (often, the answer is no one!).

So to use the popular term, the CVGTA broke down their ‘silos’ in favour of working together to benefit the entire trail community and make Invermere a better place to live and recreate. Benefits of creating a trails alliance include a larger membership base for more political clout, better / more efficient insurance options, shared resources like trail building tools or event equipment, and better access to grants and funds, to name just a few.

Kudos to everyone in the alliance for being so forward thinking! We’ll be watching to see what you guys accomplish in the future!

Thanks to the Columbia Valley Cycling Society for a great visit, to A&W Invermere for providing lunch to our hungry trail builders, and to Sites & Rec BC for providing prizes to participants.

Check out photos from the weekend on our Flickr stream.