Published in the North Island Eagle, April 2017
Locals and visitors exploring the North Coast of Vancouver Island by water have all the tools and information for a safe, successful trip available on one web site: bcmarinetrails.org, with its slogan “preserving BC coastal access for small boat users” is managed by the BC Marine Trails Network Association (BCMTNA), a registered charitable non-profit society.
Over the past 10 years, the organization’s volunteers have been identifying, mapping, and preserving a network of marine access points and campsites along BC’s 27,000 km coastline, (that’s more than 2000 km longer than the trans-Canada land trail!). Volunteers have logged thousands of hours performing site assessments, cleanups, and upgrades along this vast network of water “trails”. To date, more than 3,100 sites have been inventoried, and site assessments are in progress, through partnerships with government concerning crown land and First Nations regarding traditional territories. The work continues in collaboration and consultation with government agencies, First Nations, and other stakeholders.
North Vancouver Island, as one of the more remote and untouched areas, and teeming with wildlife, has routes for all levels of paddlers.
“The Vancouver Island North Circle Route (VINCR) is really a versatile marine trail, in one of our more beautiful, pristine areas,” said Stephanie Meinke, one of BCMT Network Association’s Project Managers for the Vancouver Island North Circle Route.
“There are stretches of sand beaches, and often not another soul on them,” said BCMTNA President Paul Grey. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
“The route is easily identifiable by following the coast and marked access points and campsites on the website,” said Meinke.
Beyond routes and landmarks, the web site includes first-hand accounts of coastal trips, articles, videos, a monthly newsletter, and resources to help plan your trip, like: Safety equipment, weather information, tide tables, water classification maps, and links to paddling blogs and web sites.
The marine trail interactive Google Earth map identifies access sites, campsites, and day use sites, complete with coordinates, land tenure, landing and site comments, and nearby locations.
As a member of Leave No Trace Canada, BCMTNA is committed to educating users about the important natural and cultural values of our coast.
“Leave No Trace principles are the basis for our stewardship program,” said Grey. “We are currently developing a code of conduct for the marine environment that contributes to the sustainability of these recreation sites.”
Local paddlers can contribute to preserving our environment and helping other kayakers by providing Site Condition Reports.
“We are constantly sending paddlers out that are travelling these routes to report on site conditions and make notes on garbage, debris and waste,” said Meinke.
From these reports, BCMTN arranges site cleanups with volunteers. In 2015, they organized a site upgrade project in Quatsino Sound with arrangements with local Quatsino First Nations. The Drake Island (called Limestone Island pre-1926) paddler-accessible campground is actually located on the foundation of the historical Central Hotel, owned by Edward Frigon, namesake to the Frigon Islets in facing Port Alice.
While the public bcmarinetrails.org site is already one of the most comprehensive small boater information sites in the world, there are even more technology tools available by joining the BCMTN Association for $25 annually, or $40 for a family membership.
“Membership gives you access to special technology tools developed by Geolive UBC that include 17 multiple map zoom levels, a ruler tool for measuring distance, and coordinates you can download directly to your GPS,” said Grey. Membership also helps significantly to support the work of BCMTNA’s volunteers as they continue to build this legacy trails network for coastal British Columbia.
This September, BCMTNA invites paddlers and other small boat users to Newcastle Island near Nanaimo, to celebrate the grand opening of the Salish Sea Marine Trail, co-hosted by the Snuneymuxw First Nation. While the North Vancouver Island Circle Route is already in use, BCMTN will launch a celebratory grand opening within the next two years.
BCMTN has also developed social media channels including a Facebook page (BCMTN), InstaGram, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts (#paddlebc and #bcmarinetrails).