Upgrades to the Nakusp Rail Trail are nearly complete and the trail will soon be open to the public.
The final engineering inspection of the trail upgrades took place on Friday, Aug. 12 after a number of successful changes have been made.
Formerly a railroad, the track was taken up in the early 90s after the last train ran through Nakusp in 1989. An informal trail was formed shortly thereafter, and has been used by residents and visitors ever since.
Over the years, the trail has seen a great deal of inclement weather and erosion, causing sections of the trail to become hazardous and in need of repair.
Cedra Eichenauer, Executive Assistant with the Kootenay Adaptive Sport Association and Inclusive by Design, explained that in 2011, the Nakusp and Area Community Trails Society was formed and began overseeing the trail.
“It took over stewardship of the portion of the trail between the municipal boundary of Nakusp (southeast edge of town) and the Area K/Area H boundary near Summit Lake, in partnership with Recreation Sites and Trails BC,” Eichenauer said. “The section inside the municipal boundary was functionally divided into two sections: from Esso to Government Hill; this section of the rail bed was impacted by the truck bypass built in the 90s, but a trail parallel to the highway was created as part of the process and managed by the Village of as part of a five kilometre Wrap Around Nakusp Trail.”
She adds that the section between Government Hill and the municipal boundary was left unchanged because of complications of jurisdiction, including crown land within municipal boundaries.
“Some time around 2012 or 2013, erosion started near a culvert just inside the municipal boundary,” Eichenauer explained. “Over the next several years, it became progressively worse in that original spot and around a second culvert nearby. Water management on the area above had changed, and a couple of high-rain years increased the damage until in 2015 – most of the trail surface had been washed away.”
This resulted in the Village of Nakusp formally closing the site and putting up concrete barricades. That didn’t necessarily stop people from using the trail, however.
Work has been ongoing for some time, with a focus on repairing the trail through engineered design and culverts that will take into account the likely increase in extreme weather events, says Eichenauer.
“The grade of the trail has been only slightly affected, easily staying gentle enough for cross country skiing or use by adapted mountain bikes. There are a couple of curves in the previously straight track though, as keeping the path straight would have required a prohibitive amount of fill,” Eichenauer said. “The repair will reopen the main off-highway connection between Nakusp and the residents to the southeast.”
She adds that the other main route is a steep section of highway with very little shoulder, making it unpleasant for bikes, horses and walkers.
The repairs were spearheaded by the Village of Nakusp, who contracted out Inclusive by Design to complete the work.
Eichenauer says procurement was as local as possible, and they included a few subcontractors as well.