In the Beginning
The history of the BC marine trails has two distinct phases: the BCMTA (BC Marine Trails Association) and the BCMNTA (BC Marine Trails Network Association). In the 1990s, Peter McGee, author of Kayak Routes of the Pacific Northwest Coast introduced the concept of a linear route running from the Washington State border to the Alaska border. He gained support within the paddling community and formed the BCMTA. At Blackberry Point on Valdez Island, this original group established the first trail campsite, equipped with a fine composting toilet, and set up a rest stop and toilet on Musgrave Point, Saltspring Island.
The timing was not quite right for the marine trails project despite enormous support from companies and paddlers. Restraints and cutbacks within government and a low interest from the public were two of the reasons that the project did not forge ahead. Chris Ladner, a pioneering BCMTA member, tried to keep the trail afloat along with the support of individuals like Ray Pillman of the Outdoor Recreational Council (ORC) and Charlie Cornfield, then a recreation officer for the Discovery Coast Recreation District. However, much of the preliminary work and dream was kept intact, waiting for a more opportune time.
The Birth of the BCMNTA, Fifteen Years Later
In 2007, paddlers renewed their interest in a marine trail. Why? Given the limited number of coveted campsites and interest in these prime locations from various private individuals and companies, a strong need was again seen for a group that represented the public’s interests. There was a flurry of activity on the WestCoastPaddler.com Forum as paddlers from various different coastal clubs discussed their common concerns.
As a result of this renewed awareness, on December 15th, 2007, representatives from paddling clubs from Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland met with Ray Pillman of ORC, Charlie Cornfield of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts, John Kimantas, author of the Wild Coast series of guide books, Dan Millsip and Mick Allen of WestCoastPaddler.com, and Peter McGee and Chris Ladner of the defunct BC Marine Trail Association, at the Outdoor Recreation Council offices in Vancouver.
Within the next year the BCMNTA formed under the leadership of Stephanie Meinke. Comprised of 8 directors and a 'task force' of representatives of 9 paddling clubs and other advisors, the BCMTNA began the massive task of identifying potential sites along the BC coastline, estimated to be over 27 000 km in length. To date, approximately3,100 sites have been inventoried and a start has been made on a thorough site assessment process.
On May 14, 2011, the BCMNTA reached a historical moment: the opening of two marine trails in conjunction with its partner Recreation Sites and Trails BC, a division of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. The Vancouver Island West Coast North trail from Port Hardy to Tofino and three parallel Gulf Islands trails from Victoria to Nanaimo were opened with much fanfare. In 2015, the Sea to Sky trail was opened in Howe Sound by the Honourable Judith Guichon, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Planning work is currently underway on several other trails or sections, including Salish Sea, Desolation Sound, Johnstone Strait, the Broughton Archipelago, Southwest Vancouver Island and the Discovery Islands.
In Fall 2016, BCMTNA achieved registered charity status. Donations can now be used to offset a portion of one's Canada Income Tax. In addition, BCMTNA has become more eligible for grant funding in the eyes of other charities and foundations. The task at hand is large and secure funding will surely be a key to success.