A photo of a wide trail with sunlight falling through the trees.

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Link box image shows people working on building a boardwalk; text says "trail ops"
Link box image shows hands exchanging papers and other items; text says "trail licences"

Making connections

GaLTT has long been known for its work on trails, and it continues to be an important component of our activities. We have a multi-year plan to establish a continuous system of publicly accessible trails from one end of the island to the other, running between Descanso Bay and Drumbeg Park. Some are on government managed lands, some are on privately-held lands where we have arranged trail licences with the landholders. We’re very close to our goal now but a few negotiations with private landowners and government bodies are still in progress, and we hope to achieve our goal SOON. In the meantime there are plenty of other things to work on.

Visit our Trails on Gabriola page to learn about trails on Gabriola generally, and about GaLTT’s trail map specifically. Our trail map brochure also describes 26 “ABC Walks that you can enjoy.

Trail ops

Breaking new trails

Since our first project in 2004, building trails and boardwalks to protect wetlands has been an important part of GaLTT’s work. On government-managed lands our work parties break new trails in locations approved by RDN and BC Parks departments according to their official management plans. Trails are also developed on unused Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure (MoTI) road allowances. We also develop public access trails on privately-held lands through the use of trail licence agreements.

Maintaining trails

With the approval of appropriate agencies, GaLTT maintains many public trails in walkable condition. Regular volunteer work parties trim back surrounding bushes and branches, and remove fallen trees. Sometimes drainage ditches must be dug, or boardwalks constructed across valuable wetlands or where conditions are very muddy.

The video below, made by April and Phillip Vannini in 2019, gives a taste of what our workparties do.

A note on shore accesses

Public shore accesses on Gabriola, apart from those in provincial or RDN parks, are under the authority of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

Much of the Gabriola foreshore is steep and/or unstable and subject to erosion; winter storms can damage trails and infrastructure; and seasonally migratory logs often block beach access. These things make infrastructure construction and maintenance challenging, and so many public accesses remain undeveloped. Most access trails that do exist simply came to be through many years of informal community use.

GaLTT has installed yellow concrete markers and informally constructed and/or improved trails on some shore accesses during the past several years. However, our work on these trails is limited. We do not have the authority or the financial resources to construct and maintain major infrastructure improvements (e.g., stairs, railings), nor are we able to accept the associated liability risk.

This doesn’t mean that improvements are never possible! The RDN has assumed responsibility for a few shore accesses on Gabriola (such as on the Decourcy peninsula and at Spring Beach) and has installed infrastructure there under a formal licensing agreement with MoTI. GaLTT has advocated for some of this work and is willing to approach the RDN with future requests. The public may also request specific access improvements through delegation to the Parks and Open Spaces Advisory Committee (POSAC) or directly to the RDN or BC Parks (for improved shore access in provincial parks).

Past work parties

The trunk of a huge bigleaf maple in a field of vanilla leaf.

Trail licences

GaLTT is authorized to enter into trail licence agreements with willing landowners. This is a valuable tool in helping GaLTT to achieve a public trail system that connects neighbourhoods and runs from Descanso Bay to Drumbeg or from Silva Bay to Sandwell.

What is a trail licence?

A trail licence is a contract, in which a landowner permits a trail to be constructed on their land for public use with the understanding that the trail will be maintained and insured by GaLTT.

A trail licence usually sets out the type of use permitted on the trail. For example, use of the trail is typically restricted to walkers, cyclists, and horse riders, but this is adapted as needed for each trail licence.

How long does the agreement last?

A trail licence contract usually has a fixed term that can be renewed automatically with the agreement of the landowner and GaLTT. In addition, terms may be negotiated which allow GaLTT or the landowner to terminate the agreement prior to the end of the term in specific circumstances.

What happens if the landowner sells the property?

Commonly a trail licence permits the landowner to terminate the agreement prior to the end of the term in the event of sale of the property in question. Thus, a trail licence is not binding on the new owner. A new owner could agree to continue the licence, or, equally, could indicate that there is no interest in having an agreement of this kind. (For example, one GaLTT trail licence agreement signed in 2012 was removed in 2014 when the property was sold, and the new owner wished to fence the land for livestock.)

A trail licence does not exist in perpetuity, nor is it necessarily transferred if the land is sold. In these and many other ways, a trail licence differs from a conservation covenant or easement.

Who maintains the trail in good condition?

Usually, a trail licence provides that the owner bears no responsibility for upkeep of the trail (unless it is their wish to do so). GaLTT is typically responsible for trail maintenance as specified in the contract.

What happens if someone is injured on the trail?

Under a trail licence, the landowner has no liability in regard to injuries or damage sustained by users of the trail. Insurance is held by GaLTT as the licensee. GaLTT regularly reviews the nature and extent of their insurance coverage to ensure all current trail licences are covered adequately for the users and maintainers of the trails.

Who gains from such a licence?

Through the generosity of landowners, all Gabriolans benefit from access to trails, and trail licences help GaLTT to fulfil its goal of providing a comprehensive and integrated network of trails on Gabriola Island.

Three people stand on a trail. One is signing papers

GaLTT’s first trail licence agreement

On October 18, 2011 Gabriola landowners Diane and Bill Cornish and GaLTT’s President John Peirce signed GaLTT’s first trail licence agreement. This licence allows public access (on foot, bike or horse) through private land on a beautiful, forested trail connecting Barrett Road to Rollo Park.

Just after John signed, a cyclist rode by on his way to the park, unaware of the significance of his route. Since then signage has been installed.

This was the first licence of many. At first, we approached landowners to urge their participation, but recently landowners have also initiated such discussions, much to our delight. As of fall 2021, GaLTT has nineteen current agreements with landowners for trails across their land

Contact trails@galtt.ca if you are interested in using this legal, risk-free way to allow the public to use a trail over a restricted part of your property.

Want to help?

You can help maintain our public trails by sharing the trails responsibly, staying on the trail, and avoiding damage to surrounding areas. But if you want to get your hands dirty, email trails@galtt.ca to get on the list of GaLTT trail-work volunteers who meet twice monthly on Sunday afternoons. Or you can be a steward for your favourite trail and let us know of any problems the work crews can fix.