Saturday, February 18, 2017

Gowlland Tod Park

Gowlland Tod Provincial Park is situated near Victoria on the east side of a deep fjord called the Finlayson Arm. On the west side is the mountainous section of highway known as the Malahat that connects Victoria to the rest of Vancouver Island. It is in the Coastal Douglas Fir zone, the ecosystem with the lowest percentage area protected in British Columbia. Dry hilltops in the park are home to rare moss and wildflower sites of national significance.

Sustainable Trails: The environmental footprint in parks is much associated with trails. Sustainable trails are an important part of protecting natural conditions in a park or protected area.Leading conservation agencies such as the US National Parks place emphasis on sustainable trails to reduce the environmental footprint.  A sustainable trail has minimal impact on natural conditions and sensitive sites. It is free from erosion and provides a safe walking surface as well as views and points of interest that motivates hikers to stay on the trail.  

Assessment of trail sustainability in Gowlland Tod Park.

The Ridge Trail that runs from the south end of the park is sustainable but in need of maintenance. This trail provides users with good viewpoints to the fjord and gives a good appreciation of the landscape.

Trails on Jocelyn Hill in the middle of the park and the Timberman Trail that runs north eastward from Jocelyn Hill have many issues with unsustainable trail sections as shown on the map:

Poor location and strategic routing of the main trails in the park are the source of the problem. This part of the park is also zoned for a higher level of protection so the problems are significant. On Jocelyn Hill the main trails make a big zig-zag and this prompts users to make short cuts and trample over rare moss and wildflower sites. These sites are of national significance and a considerable area has been degraded. Sections of steep trail on the hill are suffering accelerated erosion and this makes them doubly unsustainable and unsafe.
The Timberman Trail has poor strategic routing. It follows a somewhat inland route that does not give users good views or appreciation of the fjord landscape. The inland routing also puts it in conflict with rare moss and wildflower sites. Users go onto these open sites in search of views that are not available from the trail. Since the Timberman trail lacks sufficient interest, users have pioneered un-designated trails shown on the map by impact notations. An un-designated trail near the Cal Revelle Nature Reserve held by the District of the Highlands is compromising the objective of no human access in the reserve.

To achieve its inland routing the Timberman Trail climbs steeply from the Pease Creek bridge across a very steep slope at excessive gradients upwards of 20%. This section is suffering severe accelerated erosion. The trail is unsafe and gives a white water hiking experience during rain storms.

Man caused accelerated erosion is an ongoing environmental disturbance that has no place in a protected area or park. Eroding trails need to be permanently deactivated and rehabilitated.  Frequent cross drains are dug across the steep eroding trail. Diverting water flow and removing foot traffic is usually enough to encourage natural rehabilitation and re-vegetation. The unsustainable trail is replaced with a sustainable trail with a reduced gradient of 12% to 15 %. The following map outlines a sustainable rerouting for the Timberman Trail. It meets US National Parks sustainable trail standards and provides users more viewpoints, points of interest and a better appreciation of the fjord landscape. It is a safe sustainable trail. Deactivation and rehabilitation of the existing trails will stop the degradation of natural conditions owing to the impacts outlined on the above map.
An improved solution was found for Jocelyn Hill as shown on the drawing:

This solution involving a one half kilometer relocation will enable the rehabilitation of almost three kilometers of unsustainable trails from Jocelyn Hill. The more direct route will end the excessive overland trampling that is degrading sensitive sites.

Gowlland Tod Park is one of the most sensitive parks in British Columbia. Since it is located near Victoria increasing use is to be expected. The existing unsustainable trail system is degrading natural conditions and compromising the protection of the park. Rehabilitation of the unsustainable trails and construction of the sustainable proposed routes will protect the park and provide users with safe trails with greater interest and appreciation of this unique landscape.