Grey Canal Trail

This section of the Grey Canal Trail runs high along the hills above the east side of Swan Lake, following the historic irrigation system that once provided water to the Vernon and Coldstream valleys. It features remnants of the old canal structures as well as excellent views of Swan Lake, Vernon and Spallumcheen Valley.

The series on the best Okanagan trails continues with the Grey Canal Trail in Vernon.

“The Grey Canal is a feature trail of Vernon and a rich part of Vernon’s history,” said Ingrid Neumann, director with the Ribbons of Green Trails Society.

“Our society has been advocating for many years to connect all portions of the trail and create a contiguous hiking trail from Lavington to Okanagan Lake following the original canal. I have compiled an interactive trail map with all the Greater Vernon trails at arcg.is/iSnWn. You can also view them on smart phones, tablets and computers on our Ribbons of Green website, ribbonsofgreen.ca/vernon-area-trails-maps.”

Trails are divided into three categories: Vernon area (blue tab), Grey Canal (orange tab) and Predator Ridge (red tab). Click on a coloured tab to view a list of trails within each category. Click on the photos on the left side of the map to display more trail information such as features, access, parking, distance, difficulty, trail surface and whether dogs are allowed. Zoom in on the map to view trail location and parking, she said.

“It is now possible to walk continuously from section three (Grey Canal: Swan Lake East) to section 10 (Grey Canal: Coldstream Valley Estates South) with some sections on the road. We are working towards connecting sections one (Bella Vista/Okanagan Hills), two (Turtle Mountain) and three (Swan Lake East),” said Neumann.

In 1905, Lord and Lady Aberdeen began an extensive project to move water from lakes on highlands southeast of Vernon, across the Coldstream Valley and along the benchlands that circle Vernon to Okanagan Lake.

The 50-kilometre Grey Canal, completed in 1914 at a cost of $423,000, played an important role in the subdivision of ranchlands and orchards. At one time, it supplied water to the largest irrigation district in B.C., delivering more water than the system that supplied the City of Vancouver in 1938. By 1963, rising costs led to replacing ditches with buried pipes and by 1970, it was no longer in use.

The Ribbons of Green Trails Society originated in 1992 when local municipalities, and the North Okanagan regional district created a committee to develop a plan for a system of linear parks, pathways and bikeways in Greater Vernon. A “Ribbons of Green” plan was created and adopted into Vernon’s official community plan.

After a few years, the committee was dismantled but in 2000, through the efforts of a number of interested citizens, the Ribbons of Green concept was resurrected with a new committee promoting continuation of the trails.

The committee established a legal society in 2000, creating the ability to raise funds, issue tax receipts and opening the door to more grant and foundation funding. In 2001, the committee amalgamated with the Healthy Urban Transit Society (HUTS) as a new non-profit organization, the Ribbons of Green Trails Society.

The society currently consists of 10 directors who meet once a month to advance trail development and ensure maintenance.

Vernon staff and council members, Coldstream staff and regional district parks staff also attend.

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Hoodoo Adventure Company of Penticton will host a Peak Challenge on Aug. 22 at Big White Ski Resort.

“We are putting on a small trail-running race with the option of doing one or three peaks for a distance of 12 or 32 kilometres, 635 metres or 1,940 metres of elevation. It respects social distancing, providing people with the opportunity to go adventure with their friends and family within their own bubble,” said Nathalie Long with the Hoodoo Event Team.

“There are two categories, recreational and competitive, with limited spots (a maximum of 50 participants per category) and staggered start times to ensure we follow all physical distancing protocols and keep our communities safe. From village to dirt road, single-track to lakes, ridges and amazing mountain views, this event has it all.”

Fees are $45 for the One Peak Challenge and $65 for the Three Peaks Challenge with $200 cash prizes for the first female and first male in the Three Peaks Challenge. There are fun prizes for the second- and third-place finishers, and for the first three finishers in the One Peak Challenge, plus a prize for the best costume. Register at 2mev.com/#!/events/Big-White-Peak-Challenge

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This week, the Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen did several ‘best Okanagan trails’: Skaha Lake Loop and Okanagan Rail Trail with the Central Okanagan Outdoors Club, overgrown Black Mountain Regional Park trails and kayaked the Peachland waterfront.

“With COVID-19, we have had limited staffing and had to alter some of our maintenance practices. We mowed the (Black Mountain) trail edges earlier this summer, but with the moisture followed by the heat we have had a flush of growth,” said Brad Ackerman, manager of park services for the Central Okanagan regional district, on Wednesday.

“We had staff scheduled to go in for another mowing a couple of weeks ago but deferred the task until the fire danger rating falls back to a level 3 to reduce any risk of a spark igniting the flash fuels … Once conditions are favourable, the trail team will be running the trail mower along the trail edges to re-establish the trail widths. Hopefully, that will be in the next seven-10 days.”

J.P. Squire, aka the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff, is a retired reporter. E: jp.squire@telus.net