The BC Marine Trails Network Association is planning a party on the Salish Sea, and you're invited.
The BCMTNA will be celebrating the grand opening of the Salish Sea Marine Trail on the weekend of Sept. 16-17 as part of overall opening celebrations of the Trans Canada Trail (now called the Great Trail) as that organization marks the milestone of the connectivity of the entre breadth of British Columbia by trail.
The Salish Sea Marine Trail is a key part of that connectivity, a 257-km water route designed for small self-propelled boats and paddlecraft traversing the Salish Sea from Vancouver to Victoria. Accessible points will link parks, recreation sites, access points and trailheads, creating a viable transportation alternative to motorized vehicles and vessels and a showcase for the spectacular natural setting of the Salish Sea. The trail development has been a collaborative process of partnerships and agreements between First Nations, communities, landowners, the Province and the BC Marine Trails Network Association. Funding for the project has been assisted by Island Coastal Economic Trust, Recreation Sites and Trails BC and by private and commercial donations as well as by the BC Marine Trails itself.
The grand opening will take place on Newcastle Island Provincial Park - a fitting central location, particularly given the support of the Snuneymuxw First Nation for the marine trail project. The Snuneymuxw will co-host the event as operators of Newcastle Island Provincial Park and be assisting with some events, including a hosted luncheon.
The park has been reserved for group camping for the Salish Sea Marine Trail that weekend, meaning kayakers, canoeists and paddlers can transit some or all of the marine trail and coincide the exploration with the grand opening events on Newcastle.
A highlight will be a group paddle and race around Newcastle and Protection Islands expected to attract hundreds of paddlers.In addition, paddling clubs from across BC and the Pacific Northwest will be encouraged to host club paddles to converge on the grand opening.
"Newcastle Island was a natural location given its central location and the great enthusiasm shared by the Snuneymuxw First Nation for this project," says BC Marine Trails Network President Paul Grey. "It also represents the start of the region we want to see develop as a new and exciting paddling region - the area north of Nanaimo to the Sunshine Coast. This is where the beauty of the Salish Sea begins to shine in a way few people ever get to see."
In fact, the diversity of the trail is one of the great attractions, Grey says.
"You have the more sedate and sheltered waters of the Gulf Islands and the great attractions of the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve, then the more challenging section as you cross the Strait of Georgia to a wonderful archipelago in the center of the strait. And finally you have the run down the Sunshine Coast with all its beautiful beaches, then mountainous and spectacular Howe Sound before crossing to arrive in Vancouver," he says.
The Salish Sea Marine Trail will traverse the Gulf Islands from Victoria, then head north through the Winchelsea Islands to cross to Lasqueti and Texada islands before reaching the Sunshine Coast via the Thormanby Islands. It will then transit the Sunshine Coast past Sechelt to cross Howe Sound to Horseshoe Bay, potentially ending in Vancouver. Work is still in progress on establishing the ultimate trailheads on both extents of the trail.
Kayakers are invited to navigate some or all of the Salish Sea Marine Trail to converge on Newcastle Island for the grand opening. Some hosted paddles will take place where beginners to veterans can join others in group paddles to the event.
To keep abreast of details of the opening as it develops, please subscribe to the BCMTNA newsletter.