The Observer presents Hometown Heroes, a feature celebrating unsung heroes, individuals who go above and beyond for their community.
When he’s not at work, Brian Browning can often be found building, maintaining or just enjoying trails in and around Salmon Arm.
Browning has committed countless volunteer hours to building up and caring for the city’s popular Park Hill trail system, including his annual Remembrance Day work bees.
Over the winter, Browning, who owns Center Point Automotive, can be found riding his fatbike on the South Canoe trails, some of which are now groomed for riders after he purchased a Snowdog groomer for the Shuswap Cycling Club. The club, with help from supporters and a Gofundme, has since purchased a second groomer for the South Canoe trail network.
Browning’s passion and dedication to trails hasn’t gone unnoticed. Shuswap Trail Alliance (STA) executive director Jen Bellhouse values Browning as a “super dedicated volunteer” who has invested both time and money for the betterment of the community’s trail systems.
STA operations manager Adrian Bostock is also grateful to Browning and the time he gives back to his community, be it on the trails, on the STA board and on the city’s Greenways Liaison Committee. Bostock also credits Browning for taking the lead on the Snowdogs and the winter grooming of South Canoe trails.
“This effort has made the South Canoe trail network a four-season trail destination,” said Bostock.
Browning said he doesn’t like to be singled out as there are “so many other people that work awful hard on the trails.”
However, he enjoys seeing what can happen when a “nudge” is given to get the ball rolling on a particular idea or project, or get people to take on stewardship roles. “It’s just trying to set a good example and encourage people to do the same thing,” said Browning.
“Take ownership of the trail systems they’re using and look after them.”
Browning explained part of this passion for trails stems from family hikes and other outings in his youth. But it also comes from just wanting a safe place outdoors to walk his dog.
“Because all there was in the Canoe area was on the street – there were no trails when we first moved here in the early ‘80s,” said Browning. “So I just started to follow a few game trails through the bush and a few trails that the kids had created and started to make some walking trails where you could safely walk over to Canoe Beach and it just escalated from there.”
Browning is proud of what has become of the extensive Park Hill trail system in Canoe.
“I had the idea but one person can’t build the trail system like that,” said Browning. “It takes a community to do it. It’s been done and now we have one of the most popular trail systems in Salmon Arm. It’s awesome.”
From his volunteer efforts, Browning has developed an appreciation for the volunteer work of others.
“You notice and appreciate stuff that volunteers have built and done in a town…especially if you’re a user, you look at it and say ‘wow, that was a lot of work,’” said Browning. “People put an awful lot of effort into that to get it so we could use it.”
Browning said there’s great satisfaction to be had from building, grooming and maintaining trails, especially when you get to see others using and enjoying them.
“You get the satisfaction of building some trail and using it later and having the realization that I built this and it’s a wonderful connection to the community and to the trail system…,” said Browning. “And getting your grandkids involved with building a trail…
“Every time I take my grandkids out for a walk, I get them flicking sticks off the trail. So there you go.
“That’s how you start.”
If you know someone who is a Hometown Hero, please send their name, email, phone number and a brief write-up about them to firstname.lastname@example.org.