Snowshoeing is a popular and growing sport in Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park. The wintry vistas can be incredible with lots of snow hanging off the trees on the Myra Bailout Trail, above, as Sharon Adams and her dog, Tug, discovered.
The AGM for the Friends of the South Slopes on Thursday had a bit of everything, all of it interesting and informative.
The highlight, of course, was guest speaker Rene Unser, an endurance running coach at P.A.C.E. Sports Fitness in Kelowna. She completed the grueling Gore-Tex Transalpine Run from Germany to Italy not once, but twice. And she's planning to enter it again in September.
This AGM had a half-hour of socializing, so FOSS members could welcome newcomers, talk to them about their interests and discuss what FOSS does. Everyone had a chance to meet Unser and buy tickets for a series of draws on door prizes donated by FOSS supporters. Those draws were spread throughout the meeting, so you didn't have to wait until the end to win something.
One of the 2013 goals is increasing membership from the current level of 130. FOSS was off to a great start ,with 89 attending the AGM, many of them new members, many of them members of the Mountain Bikers of the Central Okanagan (MTBco.ca) and many of them young people.
"We were pretty pleased with the meeting," said Penny Gubbels, FOSS secretary for the past 16 years. "We had a great speaker. I can't even imagine what she does, but it was certainly wonderful to see her pictures and hear her dedication."
The attendance was second only to the AGM immediately after the 2003 Okanagan Mountain wildfire which raced through Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park and then Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, both on the South Slopes south of Kelowna.
"There were lots of new members. About two months ago when we talked about 2013, one of the things we all agreed with was that considering the number of people out using those trails, our membership is relatively low," said Gubbels.
Quite a few members represent other outdoor recreation clubs, such as MTBco, Central Okanagan Naturalists Club, Central Okanagan Hiking Club and Friends of Mission Creek, she noted.
"We've got quite a network, but our goal in 2013 is to grow our membership. We're going to be doing a brochure with a membership form on it that we can hand out. One thing that was really exciting to see was the number of young people. That was the other part of our idea of increasing membership."
Many FOSS members are older and often retired so they have more free time. However, young people like those in the mountain bike club can haul brushing equipment up to the trails and still have enough energy left to maintain the trails, said Gubbels. Four members of MTBco did an amazing amount of work on their adopted trail, Hillbilly, last year.
Ken Wiklund, elected 2013 president by the executive after the AGM, made the point: "We've got to engage young people, let them see what we are doing and the importance of trails."
Several months ago, Wiklund set up a FOSS page on Facebook which meant "a lot of people engaging, liking us and commenting," she said. "Social media is definitely a direction we want to go for everybody, but mainly the young folks. It's been very effective in reaching out to young people."
FOSS had 36 participants in the Adopt-a-Trail program last year and during the next two weeks, the society will confirm they want to continue in 2013 and put together a list of trails still available, most of those probably in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.
"Fifteen of these are Adopt-a-Trail sponsors - businesses who agree to sponsor a trail for a three-year period," said Gubbels.
"They make a payment to FOSS and depending on their level of sponsorship, they can get their logo on the Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park trail map, a small plaque on their 'adopted' trail, and a recognition plaque to post at their business."
FOSS uses those funds to hire contractors for projects that can't be done by volunteers, such as danger tree assessment and mitigation, and erosion repairs where machinery is required.
The Adopt-a-Trail volunteers, including the sponsors, commit to doing trail maintenance and improvements on their adopted trail.
In his annual report, Al Bischoff, president for the past two years and a board member for three years, outlined 2013 projects:
* Completing improvements to the Stewart Road East interpretive trail, including directional arrows, developing a teachers' guide, having the official opening on B.C. Parks Day and planning phase two;
* Planning a secure tool storage unit;
* Developing an overview document for the Adopt-A-Trail program/sponsorships and an implementation plan; placing sponsorship plaques on sign posts; presenting eligible sponsors with appreciation plaques;
* Seek B.C. Parks sponsorship for chainsaw training for volunteers;
* Ongoing trail improvements, such as erosion mitigation, brushing, clearing, trail re-alignment and re-shaping;
* Working with other groups on planning and developing one or two so-called "epic trail;s" in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park;
* Repairing the bridge in KLO Creek Park using Fortis BC volunteers;
* Continued improvements to the website so it is friendly to users of PCs, Macs, iPhones and iPads.
Bischoff stepped down as president but will remain involved with FOSS and he hasn't ruled out returning to the board in the future. New to the board for 2013 is Jay Darbyshire and Marty Stephan returns to the board as a director after a brief absence.
Andrew McIntosh was named 2013 vice-president; Pete Spencer will continue as treasurer; Gubbels stepped down as secretary and stepping in was Darbyshire. Gubbels will continue as FOSS historian, sit on the Adopt-a-Trail committee with Wiklund, who manages the sponsorship component, prepare the newsletter, help with memberships and sit on a number of other committees.
Directors are: Gubbels, Vivien Blair, Jessica Hobden, Teresa MacKenzie, Isabel Pritchard, Pete Spencer, Marilyn Westlake and Brad Wright.
" At our February board meeting, we will appoint/re-appoint members to the various committees and we will formally adopt our project list for 2013," said Gubbels.
"We are in the midst of developing a new website. For over nine years, David Brooke of dwb Design volunteered between 30-50 hours a year to maintain the FOSS website so it was always current."
Due to work commitments, Brooke had to resign his web site responsibilities, so Wiklund is now working with Navigator Multimedia to create a responsive website for multiple devices like Smart Phones and iPads. "It will also be interactive: you will be able to pay for your FOSS membership or donate on-line," said Gubbels.
The third version of a Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park map was available at the AGM for a discounted price of $5. It is available at most Central Okanagan cycling, equestrian and outdoor stores, at Mosaic Books and Tourism Kelowna for $8. The new map has updated information on Myra-Bellevue, a new Myra Canyon trestle map and added features like the trails in Okanagan Mountain Provincial Park.
Unser told FOSS members the annual Gore-Tex Transalpine Run was "the hardest race I've ever done."
It is a 40-kilometre marathon, every day, for eight days, up and over passes as high as 10,000 feet, and vertical climbs totalling 50,000 feet during the first week of September. Less than 300 or one-half of the 600 people who entered in 2012 finished. Unser was eighth in 2011 and near the top among the women in 2012.
For those unfamiliar with this gruelling competition, there are actually two transalpine routes between Germany and Italy, and the routes alternate from year to year.
In 2011, it was the 270-km western route through Austria and Switzerland. In 2012, it was the 320-km eastern route through Austria and finishing in the Dolomites in Italy.
As part of Unser's training, there was a charity run of 30 km from Kelowna to Naramata, an elevation range of 4,000 vertical feet, in July. All 13 local trail runners pitched in, took five hours to complete the run and raised more than $5,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.
Unser went through the first Gortex race in 2011 without any injuries, but her knees couldn't take the pounding of all the downhill in 2012, so she had to tape them for the last three days. It was a family affair with her husband and 11-year-old son, Carter, acting as her road crew. A personal highlight was her son meeting her at the last aid station on the last day and running with her across the finish line.