Community spirit shines bright on Sunshine Mountain

March 6, 2023

Volunteer crews on Sunshine Mountain.
All photos: BRA

In 2022, The Bralorne Recreation Area (BRA), which is part of the larger Bridge River Valley Community Association (BRVCA) broke ground on new mountain bike trails on Sunshine Mountain, a newly designated provincial recreation site. Holistically planned to provide learning opportunities, sustainable recreation options and new outdoor amenities, the duo of downhill trails and a multi directional climb trail will provide quality mountain biking options for new and experienced riders alike.

Built on the site of a former ski hill that operated during Bralorne’s heyday, the $174,881 project will see a new multi directional climbing trail and two downhill trails built to provincial trail building standards. Trail infrastructure is an effective way for rural communities to promote healthy lifestyles, attract and retain residents and increase local tourism opportunities with fewer barriers to access than other traditional sports facilities.

“There’s something about Sunshine Mountain that draws people in,” said Blake Rowsell, coordinator, Bralorne Recreation Area. “When I issued the request for proposals for the project, there was a strong response due to the uniqueness of the place. People are noticing the work that is being done and they are excited for the positive impact it will have on their life in the Bridge River Valley.”

After a robust response to the request for proposals (RFP) BRA selected two trail builders for the downhill trails – one from Squamish to spend extra time working with and training local volunteers and one from Whistler to work independently. To create the trails in a cost-effective manner, the Squamish trail builder roughed in the trail and left the surface preparation to local volunteers before coming back to polish and finish the trail.

The multi directional trail was a combined effort. The trail was laid out by International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA Canada) and built by a local machine operator. This is perhaps the most exciting part of the project as for advanced riders the trail will be utilized as a climb trail to access the upper part of the trail network. Newer riders will be able to ride the trail up and turn around and ride back down a green level flow trail.

This multi directional trail is all about building community capacity. This includes both providing recreational opportunities for new mountain bikers and developing local capacity to build world class mountain bike trails. Schnarr Excavation, a local business co-owned by brothers, is well-known as some of the best machine operators in the Bridge River Valley. Schnarr Excavation was able to work on their first trail while being mentored by experienced trail builders. This made the climb trail a massive win for the entire community.

“Our community has strongly supported this effort by donating their time to the trails,” explained Rowsell. “We had 60 volunteers from Bralorne, Gun Lake and Gold Bridge work together to develop trails for future enjoyment by the community. During this time, they learned new skills and strengthened relationships with each other. It takes a different type of person to enjoy spending their time in the woods with a shovel and I’m grateful we have so many of these special people in our community.”

BRVCA has cleverly accessed grants from a number of sources for this project, including $100,000 through Northern Development’s Recreation Infrastructure funding program. Other grants came from Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) and Recreation Sites and Trails BC and in-kind support from Talisker Resources and Bralorne Gold Mines valued at $15,960.

BRVCA also received other support from SLRD to pay a portion of Rowsell’s wages. Having a dedicated person to apply for funding and manage the project has helped it progress smoothly.

“SLRD is pleased to support BRVCA as they develop plans to create and maintain trail infrastructure in scenic Bridge River Valley,” said Sal DeMare, Electoral Area A Director, SLRD. “Throughout B.C., more and more people are seeking out their local trails and enjoying the mental and physical benefits they provide. This project creates new recreational opportunities for locals and new reasons for people to visit the Valley.”

Funding for the trail construction on Sunshine Mountain came through Northern Development’s Recreation Infrastructure grant program. BRVCA accessed the highest grant available through the program for their project – $100,000 for upgrades or repairs to an existing facility. For new construction project, or substantial upgrades to existing facilities, applicants can receive a maximum of $300,000.