By Korie Marshall

Two-way road access and parking spots for a multi-use recreation site, including a toboggan hill, is a little bit closer to reality. And it is conveniently close to Valemount.

Members of the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA) have been working on a number of projects for the 5 Mile Hill area just north-east of the village. Last fall, with the help of the Valemount Community Forest, upper parts of the access road were realigned. Work started the year before on lower parts of the road, some switchbacks and some of the steepest sections of the road have been removed.

With a little more work, and hopefully some more funding from Columbia Basin Trust’s Community Initiatives program, the road to the top could be accessible to two-way car traffic during the summer months, says YORA member Joe Nusse. The outdoor club also has some plans for improving part of the road locals have been using as a toboggan hill.

The hill just below the Valemount Community Television transmission towers has been especially busy this year, with many families using the area for tobogganing and potluck lunches. Samantha Travers, Coordinator for Kinnickinnickers Family Centre says they were thinking of putting in an application for some improvements to the toboggan hill area. However they’ve opted to work with YORA and coordinate their efforts, since the area is also used for hiking and skiing. YORA’s Master Plan for a bike park is also being considered by the Recreation Sites and Trails department of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.

A tobogganing spot parents can walk to with their kids would be ideal, says Angie Perkins, although she wouldn’t let her kids walk to the bottom of 5 Mile by themselves yet.

She is concerned that cars parked at the bottom of the area used by tobogganers can become dangerous, but so far traffic itself hasn’t been an issue.

“I think it would be fine to remove a few trees to make the area into a fun little recreation area for families,” says Rundi Anderson, who has two young daughters.

Nusse says the McKirdy Meadows Alpine Trail at the top of 5 Mile has been a recreation site for years, but the top of 5-mile has not been maintained since the fire lookout was decommissioned in the early 1990’s. (The lookout now sits at the Valemount Museum). Since that time, many residents have continued to use the area for hiking, skiing, tobogganing, and access to the Swift Creek Loop, the Selwyn Traverse and the McKirdy Meadows Alpine trails.

The ski-out from McKirdy Cabin to the top of 5 Mile has also been completed recently. YORA member Patricia Thoni says a strip has been cleared of trees to allow skiers to come down from the cabin without having to take off their skis, which has been in their plans for some time. Thoni says the cabin is about an hour and a half hike from the top of 5 Mile, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains including Mount Robson and McKirdy Mountain.

Over the last couple of years, the outdoor club has landed funding from CBT’s Community Initiatives, and has worked with the community forest to create the infrastructure for better access to 5 Mile hill. Nusse says views have again been opened up at the top of 5 Mile, and the trailhead for the McKirdy trail has been moved, giving better parking and access.

YORA is hoping to get more funding for the final pieces of the road improvement, including gravel, ditching and creating parking areas that will work with existing uses as well as the bike park, currently still in the planning stages.

“This work could not have been done without the Community Forest,” says Nusse. “We’re hoping that partnership continues, for sure.”

He says the Community Forest has helped with technical expertise, permitting and contracting for machinery.

The Valemount Community Forest is looking at logging a couple small blocks in the area this spring to help pay for the work on the road, says manager Craig Pryor. Nusse confirmed the community forest is coordinating with YORA in choosing those blocks, and he says the logging will help with the creation of parking areas. He doesn’t expect they will be very noticeable from the village.

There is continuous potential for improvement in the area, Nusse says. Some potential options are a cross country ski loop, solar lighting for trails, and flood lighting for the toboggan hill, since there is already power to the TV towers. For now, YORA is concentrating on completing the road access, as well as improvements to the toboggan hill like tree removal and landscaping and possibly a more permanent fire pit or picnic area.

Pryor expects the logging will be finished this spring. After finishing the road work, Prior says the Community Forest will essentially be leaving the area to YORA, although they may continue to provide support if needed.

Nusse says the goal of this upcoming third phase of work on the road is to end up with a low maintenance road that can be safely used by visitors and locals alike, for accessing a multitude or recreational possibilities on 5-Mile.