The Columbia & Western Trail Society
The Columbia and Western Trail Society is a non-profit organization based out of Castlegar, BC with a vision of a safe and accessible trail for all users. Their mandate is the promotion, maintenance preservation of the many historic sites on this section of the Trans Canada Trail. They have a stewardship agreement with trail managers Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
The C&WTS started in 1998 after mudslides and rock falls had cut off sections of the trail. A major wash-out occurred near the Castlegar trail-head washing a section of trail out. After several volunteer work parties of hard work, trail traffic was restored, and the trail was much safer for all users. With the help of more local volunteers, The Columbia and Western Trail Society was formed later that year. The C&WTS membership is comprised of multi-trail users, they maintain a distance of 85km of rail/trail from Castlegar to Fife above Christina Lake. C&WTS continues to advocate for a multi-use trail, believing all users can work together for the betterment of the trail, while protecting the environment, surrounding ecosystems and recognizing the many historical sites on the trail.
C&WTS club volunteers can be spotted along the trail removing fallen rocks, trees, placing water bars in wet locations and keeping the water culverts clean. Safety fences have been placed on many of the rock retaining walls that overlook the valley below. All the bridges have been upgraded with a wood deck to ease the rider along. Sometimes major equipment is hired where needed to repair the surface of the trail, replace old existing culverts and maintain ditch lines along the trail. The society partners with many trail organizations like Impact Equipment, Sutco, Celgar, Interfor, C.P. Rail, West K Concrete, Mitchells Supply, Playmor Power Products, USCC Brilliant Culture Center, Trails BC, Trans-Canada Trail and ATV/BC just to name a few who are also dedicated in providing a world class trail network in British Columbia for all to enjoy. There are many engineering marvels including trestles, tunnels, masonry supports, bridges and historic C.P.R. locations on the rail trail. One of C&WTS projects this year is to recognize many of these locations, in 2016 the partners placed kiosks along the trail while completing many improvements to the trail. Signage is being created to accurately display the many historic stations that were most important during the steam era. We propose to tell the story and invite the thousands of riders, hikers and walkers who visit the Rail Line annually to pause and enjoy interpretive signage and rest stops at 17 locations throughout the trail. To develop this project, C&WTS has been working closely with local historian Walter Volovsek as well as other community partners including Castlegar Heritage Society, Selkirk College, the Castlegar Doukhobor Museum, the Penticton Museum, CP Rail Archives and BC Hydro. The Columbia Western Rail Line played an important role in the settlement of the interior of BC, providing a bloodline for the economic growth of the Province through the transportation of the Kootenays’ vast mining resources. It was also the site of the infamous rail bombing which killed the Doukhobor Spiritual Leader Peter Lordly Verigin.