By Jen Bellhouse, Shuswap Trail Allaince
As it was for many, 2021 for the Shuswap Trail Alliance (STA) was a year of changes, challenges and trying to sort out the new “normal” while navigating the ever-evolving pandemic.
For the first time in many years, the STA was not able to hold the annual fundraiser in February, in the usual format of a dance and auction, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A dedicated team of volunteers and STA staff banded together to pull off a virtual fundraiser and silent auction online. Community support was outstanding, and the results far exceeded all expectations. Through the generous support of businesses and individuals alike, the STA raised over $57,000, which was used for trail projects throughout the Shuswap.
Community support continued throughout the year and the STA continued to be blown away by the generosity of individuals and businesses such as Ian Gray’s Salmon Arm GM, which provided the use of a truck for the year, the Barley Station Brewpub which continues to donate a portion of proceeds from every Trail Ale sold, and IG Wealth Management, whose staff donated funds matched by national IG Wealth Management contributions. There are many more and the STA is grateful for each and every one of them. Along with a couple of grants, the community support the STA received this year resulted in a successful 2021 and they are well on the way to a strong start for 2022.
Change also arrived in the form of a well-thought-out transition of lead staff when Phil McIntyre-Paul handed over the executive director reins to Jen Bellhouse in June. In his role as senior consultant, Phil continues to make time available to focus on key projects while the day-to-day running of the STA organization has shifted to Jen.
The intense heat dome and wildfire season brought its own set of challenges, greatly impacting the 2021 field season. Wildfire closures prevented the STA crew from accessing some job sites, and midway through summer the tough decision was made to let go half of the crew. Although some projects were put on hold in 2021, the STA crew completed regular maintenance projects and was able to build the new Hillcrest Heights Trail, and work in collaboration with the Jackson Mountain Bike Academy to build a new section of the Larch Hills Traverse with an anticipated completion in 2022.
In the fall, the STA launched a new and improved website which includes an incredible trails database that is super easy to use, along with information about the organization and links to many resources. The STA would like to thank the City of Salmon, the Shuswap Community Foundation and MRDT for their generous funding, which made the dream of a new website a reality.
As 2021 wraps up, STA staff and volunteers are already working on the 2022 fundraiser, which will again be held virtually. Those interested in donating to the 2022 auction can email Sylvia at email@example.com. The STA is looking forward to a successful season in 2022 and has trail projects planned for the East Shuswap Alpine, the South Shuswap, and is hoping to be able to hold more regular volunteer days again.
By working collaboratively, rural communities of the Shuswap gain the combined benefits of a focused and skilled support team able to provide planning, community consultation, design and trail building expertise normally only possible in larger urban centres. The Shuswap Trail Alliance has supported the growth of more than 143 kilometres of new greenway trails throughout the Shuswap valued at over $2.5 million dollars since 2005.
For more on the work of the STA, or to become a member, visit www.shuswaptrails.com.
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