Trail-building brings Penelakut community together

Sticking to a gym regime can be a workout all on its own. But living on an island that has little infrastructure to support physical activity takes the challenge to a whole other level. Building multi-use trails was one community’s innovative solution to create more recreational opportunities for its island residents.

“Being semi-secluded in the Gulf Islands, with fairly underdeveloped land that’s mostly focused on just residential and a handful of community buildings, there are a lot of barriers to keeping people active,” explains Joshua James, an economic development officer with Penelakut Tribe.

Highlighted in purple is the reserve for the Penelakut First Nation.
Photo credit: BC Healthy Communities.

Located in the southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland, Penelakut Tribe has four reserves among the islands of its traditional territory: Penelakut Island, Tsussie, Tent Island, and Galiano Island. James lives on Penelakut Island, along with approximately 500 residents, the majority of more than 900 total community members.

For the past two years, James has worked in consultation with Penelakut Tribe council and community members on a number of economic development ideas, including developing a local trail for the island. Planning for the project took place through a strategic planning process inclusive of everyone in the community, he says.

Today, more than three quarters of the proposed trail is now completed allowing local residents to explore other parts of the island and to be physically active without worrying about vehicle traffic on the roads. The trail is used for a variety of activities: walking, running, hiking, cycling, and interpretive learning experiences. 

The community’s youth played a key role in the project, helping to plan and build the trail. “With the actual trail building portion, we had elders from the community work with the kids or share information about the area,” James says.

The project has also brought families together to enjoy cycling and mountain bike skill-based programming. “Anytime we ran bike programs, we always encouraged adults to come out with their kids. It was a good group of kids, as well as the parents, guardians or older siblings that would come out,” he describes.

So far, the trail and related programs have been very well received by the community, James says. The community-led project has helped both create a healthy environment for community members, and a prospective business development opportunity for future tourism on the island.


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