“If we get one new trail, it’ll be worth it.”
Kerry Marcus, GaLTT’s first president, was also a founding member of the society, one of a cohort who had a vision for developing Gabriola’s network of recreational trails.
In talking about this history, Kerry stresses that 20 plus years ago, Gabriola did not have the extensive trail systems or protected land we have today. As a walker, dog owner and horseback rider, Kerry longed for more dependable, publicly-accessible trails, which in the early 2000s, led her to become a volunteer committee member with the Regional District’s Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC).
Kerry recalls the acquisition of Cox Park as a significant event that also inspired the desire for more such spaces [see “Cox Park History, 2002-05”]. And thus, she and a few others who were keen to increase Gabriola’s protected parkland began to consider the benefit of forming a charitable society that would focus on this goal. Such a society would enable them to fundraise, hold money, organise volunteers, and thus more formally advocate for and manage parkland acquisition. Their hope was to “secure things for the community”; they told themselves, “If we get one new trail, it’ll be worth it.”
2005 Cox Park dedication: RDN Regional Director Gail Lund (speaking) and Joan Michel (RDN)
2005 Cox Park dedication: L-R Carol Boyce, Joan Michel (RDN), Kerry Marcus
After more than a year of hard work, in the fall of 2004 this founding group had written their by-laws and registered GaLTT as a charitable society. When they announced their first AGM, Kerry says they hoped maybe 20 people would show up and become members, and they were astonished and thrilled when that hopeful 20 became 75. It was an exciting moment, and Kerry says it clearly showed that the Gabriola Land and Trails Trust was “an idea for which the time was right.”
Kerry was elected GaLTT’s inaugural president at the first AGM in November of 2004, served in that role for four years, and remained on the Board with a couple of brief hiatuses until 2020. In reflecting on her tenure as president, Kerry recalls the first big volunteer project—the building of the Yogi trail in Cox Park—and the publication of the first trail map as key events, but highlights the acquisition of the 707 as most memorable and significant. While twenty years ago this parcel of land had been recently logged and wasn’t the beautiful, forested parkland it is today, the group had the vision to see what it could become. GaLTT worked with the guidance of former Islands Trust trustee and then RDN regional director Gail Lund, and had the support of the community—despite some controversy. They met with the landowner and used the density transfer provision in Official Community Plan to acquire the original 707 acres, granting the landowner access to some developmental land opportunity in exchange. Kerry notes that while the option of density transfer had until then never been used; putting this strategy into play has helped secure approximately 1300 acres of recreational land over and above that provided by the regional and provincial parks.
From GaLTT’s very first newsletter: Work Party on the YOGI Trail
Trail workers in Cox Park, probably River Place Trail. Left to right: Charlotte and Tom Cameron, Ron Holmes, Em Gavin, unknown, Jennifer Nash, Sam Betts. (Let us know if you recognize an “unknown” or want to correct an identification!)
Kerry remains an active GaLTT member, and is leading one of this winter’s guided walks, “Walking Through History.” When considering GaLTT’s future, she emphasizes the importance of continuing to maintain good, respectful, and positive relationships with land holders, local government, and the Snuneymuxw First Nation. She also hopes that GaLTT will continue to value recreational trail access for all users, including equestrians— she’d like to see more careful thought about including horse access in the planning and building of trails.
In reflecting on her time as president, GaLTT’s formation and its history over these past 20 years, Kerry proclaims, “it has been wildly successful beyond what we thought at the outset was possible.” She adds, “I’m proud of what we were able to get going.”
We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a series of posts capturing the reflections and perspectives of GaLTT past presidents. Thanks so much to Trish Matson for conducting the interviews and writing these articles. Watch for more in coming months!