With wildfire safety top of mind this summer, participants in two Kootenay work experience projects are sharing wildfire awareness tips and gaining hands-on practice in wildfire prevention and trail building, thanks to more than $135,000 from the provincial community and employer partnership fund.
The provincial government has provided nearly $72,000 for a jobs creation partnership with Selkirk College to help four participants in Crawford Bay gain work experience and training in wildfire management and first aid on the east shore of Kootenay Lake.
Participants have already hosted a Fire Smart community workshop and will continue to identify and clear wildfire hazards like underbrush through December.
In addition to wildfire awareness and chainsaw training, participants will also learn trail planning skills in partnership with the East Shore Trails and Biking Association. The workers will develop GPS and digital mapping skills to help design a new segment of the TransCanada Trail through Crawford Bay, and collect information for an East Shore Trails Manual to help showcase the community’s walking, biking and cross-country trails.
“The partnership is a win-win-win scenario,” said Laverne Booth, community education and workplace training coordinator at Selkirk College.
“Project participants get training and work experience in trail building and urban wildfire interface work, and our small rural communities get to enhance the trail system and raise awareness about fire safe communities.
“It’s really good that we have two First Nations working on this project, being that this is our traditional territory,” said project participant Michael White.
“It’s a big boost for our people and for the people of Crawford Bay. What I have learned here I can take home for our people do this too. It’s an awesome program. Now that I have a few more skills, it has got me thinking that I would like to run a crew in the future.”
In the Village of Slocan, four participants are sharpening their carpentry and construction skills as part of an effort to establish destination recreational trails through the region’s western screech owl habitat. This project is receiving more than $63,000 in funding.
Since May 2015, participants have laid new chip trails, deconstructed an old wildfire crew camp and will be building a new information kiosk and signs out of the salvaged camp materials later this month.
The owl walk is expected to open in October and visitors can learn more about the new trail system on a new website designed by one of the participants at slocanowlwalk.com.
Slocan mayor Jessica Lunn said her village’s capacity to work on special projects is limited, but the partnership crew “has been doing an excellent job at cleaning up and developing the site, as well as with the development of marketing and information items for the walk. It has definitely been a win-win for all involved.”
Dawn Burling a project participant, said: “The Slocan Owl Walk project is one of the most inspiring and fulfilling experiences in my life. Teardown of the site has been a welcome change from the work I’ve done in the past. Returning the land to its natural state is rewarding and learning the skills I have with this project has only inspired me to continue.”