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Squamish Smoothers creating happy trails

Senior-led project help make eight kms of trails more accessible
Squamish Smoothers
Squamish Smoothers volunteers work on the Nature Loop in April 2019.

Thanks to the Squamish Smoothers, there are eight kilometres of local trails that are more accessible to more of the town's population.

Over the past year, the group worked on nine sites in Squamish, including: the Nature Loop and the southern portion of the Loggers Creek trail near the Squamish Adventure Centre; the bottom section of the Coho Park trail near Skyline Drive; the southern and eastern sections of the Mike Weeks trail in Garibaldi Highlands; six sections of the Mamquam Spawning Channel near the Squamish Valley Golf Course; the Heron trail just west of downtown; the section of the Swan South trail close to Bailey Street; the eastern portion of the Crumpit Creek trail in Valleycliffe; and the Swan Link in Dentville.

Jim Gracie, a director on the Squamish Trails Society and the program manager for the Senior Smoothers on behalf of the Squamish Seniors Society, said the project was spearheaded by the seniors' society, and was meant to make the trails accessible for those with mobility challenges such as people using wheelchairs or scooters or parents with strollers.

Gracie said 24 seniors and 10 members of the Squamish Trails Society took part in the project.

The work was made possible by a $25,000 New Horizons for Seniors grant from the federal government.  And there's still more work that the group would like to do, and it plans on reapplying for the grant in the future.

"We used that money to get the seniors involved in planning, overseeing and monitoring the work that the Squamish Trails Society did on these trails," Gracie said, adding that the next phase would focus on trails near the Squamish Estuary.

The first order of business was to tackle the Nature Loop last April.

"It was readily accessible and easy to work on," Gracie said. "It was a mud bath because, over the years, nobody put any improvements on the trail. We went in and we solidified the base and we contracted Coast Aggregates here in Squamish to give us some trail-based materials. We had that delivered to the site, and the seniors and the volunteers spread that gravel on the trail."

Gracie said it took roughly three days to complete the roughly one-km section.

With the budget restraints, he said organizers worked to prioritize the work so that there would be the most bang for their bucks.

"We knew our $25,000 wouldn't do every trail in town so we selected the ones most used by seniors and mothers," he said. "We concentrated on those trails that were most readily accessible, but needed some fine-tuning."

Gracie said that while wheelchair users tend to prefer paved trails such as the Corridor Trail, many have been more open to trying out some of the backwoods trails improved by the Smoothers' work.

"We definitely have seen more wheelchairs out and about, that's for sure," he said. "The benefits of fresh air and outdoor activity are pretty important, especially as you get older."

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