Keeping South Star a gem is an ongoing effort
Officially established back in 2004, the Southstar Recreation Society holds a contract with FLNRO (Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations) through Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
Ministry personnel administer this contract on behalf of the government who own the land. Many individuals worked for decades prior to 2004 to build and operate the trails, which are called the South Star Trails. Our constitution specifies that the trails are a four season, non-motorized recreation area and that we aim to provide low cost recreational opportunities to the community.
We have seen a big increase in usage over the past couple of years, with many people coming to walk, bike, ride horses and use the trails for skiing and snowshoeing.
There are some big changes coming up this year. The parking has been a problem for local residents, at times creating unsafe conditions. Sometimes the nearby roads are so congested with vehicles, that emergency vehicles would be unable to access homes in case of fire or medical issues. The ministry is committed to enabling a dedicated parking area, and the hope is that Canfor will play a big part in this project when they do a planned fuel reduction logging operation this season. These plans take into account buffer strips, stem spacing, invasive plants and of course, protection of the trail system.
In the past, the trails were groomed occasionally by volunteers on a casual basis. In 2009, the previous board obtained grants under the Community Initiatives Program of the Regional District of East Kootenay/Columbia Basin Trust to purchase the current snowmobile and grooming equipment. A generous fellow from the Elk Valley with decades of track grooming experience, moved to Cranbrook and nearly single-handedly groomed our trails for many years until this past Christmas.
We have attempted to continue in his footsteps with a crew of six volunteers; so far, things have worked out quite well. Demands from family and work sometimes make it difficult to do the job in a timely fashion. This year has been particularly challenging due to the huge snowfalls, and our somewhat primitive equipment. Hopefully, we can find funds to upgrade our equipment to enable better grooming of ski trails in less time.
At present, it takes a minimum of two passes to set track; equipment to accomplish this in one pass is available. In addition, we need a better storage solution for machines and hand tools. At present, our current fee structure – single/family memberships at $20/$25 annually or suggested $2 donation per ski, provides us with enough funding to run the equipment and still provide a cushion for unexpected expenses.
However, we would not be able to fund new equipment purchases from our own treasury. We encourage trail users, and particularly skiers, to consider becoming members of the society to support our work. Applications are available in the box at the trailhead.
Late winter conditions are always challenging for skiers; the snowpack is no longer deep and crisp and even. Snowshoeing on the expanded snowshoe trail network continues to be a great adventure, however the recent rain and warm temperatures may signal an end to the winter activities. Time will tell.
The wonderfully diverse forest scenery, unexpected views and quiet solitude are fine attributes. Look for a considerable variety of tracks left during the night by forest critters, from the tiny Masked Shrew and Deer Mouse, the ungulates, and the Bobcat, Canada Lynx and Cougar. At higher elevations, the Ruffed Grouse and Snowshoe Hare apparently search for buds and seeds, while the Coyote and Red Fox roam the woods and meadows.
Thank you for your appreciation of the trail system and our work. It is helpful to us to receive your comments in the trail head register. We welcome new members and are grateful to those who renew their memberships over the years.
Lead image: Marianne Nahm on left, Barbara Robertson on right, at the power line section that divides South Star Recreation Area. Photos submitted by Southstar Recreation Society
Submitted by the Southstar Board