Several student volunteers from three Kelowna schools have been hauling, spreading and packing gravel across a new one-kilometre trail at Black Mountain / sntsk‘il’ntən Regional Park.
The still-unopened, 640-hectare regional park is the largest in the Central Okanagan and has the unique position of being operated by two organizations.
“This is the first time that we’ve entered into a co-management agreement with Westbank First Nation,” said Bruce Smith, communication and intergovernmental affairs officer at Regional District of Central Okanagan. “We’re partners in this park and will be forever. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to raise awareness about the first nations culture here in the Okanagan.”
The new Grassland Trail will be a 1.9-kilometre loop, with the first half built by students from Mt. Boucherie Secondary School, Rutland Secondary School and Dr. Knox Middle School.
Ian Pooley is part of Friends of Black Mountain / sntsk‘il’ntən Society, the organization that provided volunteers to assist the students in the project.
“We were anxious to have community involvement,” Pooley said. “So we approached the schools and they were delighted to participate.”
Two grants were provided by Mountain Equipment Co-op and TD Friends of the Environment to help fund equipment and material needed to construct the trail.
“I was really amazed. Students worked as teams,” Pooley said. “They worked with real enthusiasm. I think they gained a much better understanding that this sort of park and conservation area matters to local people and, particularly, for First Nation.”
Steven Chartrand is enrolled in the outdoor education program at Rutland Secondary School and has been helping with the project since September.
“I’m definitely going to bring my dog up here lots, and my family, and go hiking here and I can just say that I was part of building this,” Chartrand said.
Sonja Kinkartz, an exchange student from Germany, is another volunteer who is enthusiastic about this experiential learning program.
“We don’t have something like this at all in Germany,” Kinkartz said. “It’s very exciting that I can be a part of this. I want to come back to Canada in three or four years with my family and then I can show them this and say ‘I built that.’”
The new Grassland Trail will be open to the public at some point in 2019, potentially around spring-time.