The RDN purchased lands now known as Cox Community Park in 2002 on behalf
of the residents of Electoral Area B (Gabriola, Mudge and De Courcy
This acquisition was made possible by a successful Area B referendum
in November 2001 that allowed the RDN to borrow $500,000 to buy the land
from the Community Credit Union. At the same time, the RDN spent $500,000
in regional park funds to buy what is now Descanso Bay Regional Park
from the Credit Union on behalf of the residents of the entire Region.
POSAC provides advice and expertise
In February 2003, RDN Director Gail Lund organized a walkabout in the
new community park with RDN Parks Coordinator Joan Michel. Several interested
members of the community joined them in an exploration of the existing
trails and an initial inventory of park boundaries and features. This
was the beginning of a process to determine what would be required to
develop the parkland appropriately and meet user needs. With the inauguration
of the Electoral Area B Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC)
in June 2003, community involvement in the development of Cox Community
Park was formalized.
Early on, the landowner fronting the northeastern boundary of Cox alerted
the RDN to the unauthorized trail connecting the Park with the end of
Sarah Place via private land. The RDN moved quickly to address the trespassing
issue and ensure that a public entrance was developed at the legal access
to the Park on the east side, River Place. Over the course of the summer
and early fall, volunteers led by POSAC members Ron Holmes, Randy Young
and Doug McLaughlan worked with the RDN on identifying and brushing out
a new section of trail about 400 metres in length to connect the new
park entrance at River Place with the existing main park trail leading
to Taylor Bay Road.
Crossing a wetland
To complete the new trail link with River Place, it was necessary to
cross a broad shallow wetland just inside the eastern boundary of Cox
Community Park. Ron Holmes and Joan Michel explored a number of possible
crossing locations and settled on one directly below River Place.
plan was to install two or three large culverts and create a causeway
suitable for equestrians, cyclists and pedestrians. The RDN convened
an on-site meeting with Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection staff
and community environmentalists to review the plan. The Ministry and
community representatives were clearly against the installation of culverts
because they would cause too great a change to the wetland. A boardwalk
with footings within the wetland was deemed acceptable in the absence
of any fish in the watercourse and sufficient funds to consider a clear
The RDN commissioned an engineered design for a 75-foot boardwalk strong
and wide enough to carry traffic consisting of horse, bike and people
and based on whole cedar log stringers found on site. A cluster of eight
large cedars had blown down in the wetland adjacent to the proposed boardwalk
site and Ron Holmes, Randy Young and Don McLaughlin recognized the value
of this found wood for boardwalk construction. Six 25-foot whole logs
were prepared for the boardwalk stringers and the rest was milled for
decking. Randy Young made use of his engineering skills and software
to calculate available wood; he also organized the stripping and treating
of the cedar stringers. Fall rains arrived and building was put off to
the next spring when the watercourse would be drier and easier to work
with. Over the winter, the RDN and volunteers identified and removed
hazard trees along the new 400-metre trail connection to River Place
and finished trail clearing. This was the first new trail to be completed
in Cox Community Park.
Late in the summer of 2004 the wetland by River Place dried out enough
to proceed with the installation of simple sona-tube footings and construction
of the boardwalk. Progress was stalled early when a first excavation
into the wetland revealed more than 17 feet of wet clay and sand with
no solid material suitable for footings in sight. The engineer was called
back to evaluate the situation and provide new plans. A number of alternate
footing mechanisms were explored, including gabions and floating foundations.
The early arrival of wet fall weather re-invigorated the wetland stream
and once again the project was terminated until the following year.
GaLTT lends a hand
By the fall of 2004, significant progress was taking place on other
fronts that would greatly assist with the development of Island trails.
Several members of the POSAC committee recognized the need for a community-based
organization to compliment the advisory role of the POSAC. The Gabriola
Land and Trails Trust (GaLTT) was formed in the fall of 2004. Kerry Marcus
was elected the first president, and Colin Masson vice-president. The
formation of GaLTT provided a means to better facilitate volunteer trail
work and fund raising efforts necessary if the goal of an island trail
system is to become a reality.
Volunteers pioneer the Yogi Trail
Keeping Cox Community Park trail projects on the move, GaLTT began working
with the RDN on a new trail parallel to Taylor Bay Road and joining the
two west-side entrances to Cox. In consultation with the Ministry of
Transportation, plans were made for a safe crossing of Taylor Bay Road
in order to connect with Descanso Bay Park. A safe vehicular entry point
for the proposed Cox parking area near McConvey Road was also identified.
The new trail parallel to Taylor Bay Road, 400 metres in length, would
be GaLTT’s inaugural trail project. It was named the Yogi Trail
because of its proximity to the landmark rock figure erected by the Youth
Organization of Gabriola Island (YOGI) in the 1960s along Taylor Bay
Road at McConvey in what is now Cox Community Park.
GaLLT trail leaders
Paula Maddison and Em Gavin coordinated GaLLT work on the Yogi trail
project. With RDN supervision and trail building training by Parks Assistant
Jake Belobaba, GaLTT and its many dedicated community volunteers worked
through the winter of 2004-05 to build a great trail. Cox Community Park
and the new YOGI Trail were officially opened in April 2005 as part of
a larger GaLTT Earth Day event that celebrated parks and trails all over
Building the River Place boardwalk
In August 2005, RDN contractors began installing pilings for the River
Place boardwalk. To everyone’s astonishment some of the pipes went
down 30 feet before hitting solid ground. The pipes were cut to height,
a steel frame welded on, and the cedar stringers (structural logs) anchored
in place. Jake Belobaba organized community volunteers to help attach
the 10-foot decking planks to complete the bridge. By the end of October,
stone and gravel approaches at either end of the bridge were installed
and GaLTT trail volunteers completed the trail up the rocky slope to
River Place. Final work on the River Place Trail and boardwalk connection
involved completion of the trail-road interface at the end of River Place
and the installation of park signage. The end result is a sturdy span
that should last for decades, accommodate all trail users safely, and
have minimal impact on the surrounding wetland.
The River Place boardwalk and trail connection
at Cox Community Park provide the
link between the Park’s eastern gateway at River Place and
the Park’s main trail network originating at Taylor Bay Road.
large group of community volunteers pitched in to help the RDN install
the boardwalk decking, approaches and trail up to River Place. The installation
of the boardwalk marked an important milestone in the history and development
of both Cox Community Park and island trails.
GaLTT assisted with the funding of trail work in Cox Community Park
through use of a Shell Environment Fund grant of $5000 specifically to
clean up hazards and provide safe and environmentally sustainable access
to the park. The SEF grant has so far funded machine time to rough out
approaches to the boardwalk and other trail sections, as well as gravel
for surfacing. Interpretative signage is also planned with the remainder
of the funds.
The Gabriola Horse Group also made a $100 contribution toward the construction
of the boardwalk, which allows horses to safely access the park.
Bright future for island trails
The River Place trail connector in Cox Park opens up some great new
routes for Islanders. The boardwalk off River Place is also an important
metaphor—a crossing that connects the island in new ways. The boardwalk
highlights the efforts that have been made to date on developing parks
and trails on Gabriola and signals a bright future for Island trails.
One day, it is hoped that these trails will connect with a broader community
trail system that will link all Island neighbourhoods and provide the
community with some fine ways for non-motorized users to get around.