Re-establishing the Greg Duke Trail

Some of the trail crew that helped re-establish the trail. Photo supplied.

Some of the trail crew that helped re-establish the trail. Photo supplied.

Charles Helm

One of the Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS) 2016 trail projects involves re-establishing the Greg Duke Trail. This area was developed for hiking and fishing by the Ministry of Forests in the mid-1990s, but due to funding cutbacks the project lapsed. Over time the well-constructed trail became overgrown.

With the increasing focus on tourism for Tumbler Ridge and the designation of the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark, the advantages of redeveloping this area are obvious. The trail to the first lake (Irene Lake) is just 350 metres in length, and is relatively flat. There is a shortage of such short, easy trails, and rebuilding this trail will create another hiking opportunity for those that are not able to tackle the more

demanding trails. A side trip on the Greg Duke Trail will be an easy add-on to a trip to Kinuseo Falls, which will encourage visitors to stay longer in the area, thereby supporting our local hotels and restaurants, etc.

The spring-fed lake is unusually round and deep and has interesting mineral features, making it a potentially intriguing geosite. The view of Castle Mountain reflected in the lake from one of the viewpoints is pretty unique for the area, and the bird life and other wildlife in the wetland areas is impressive.

Greg Duke was a much loved, long-time forester and trapper who passed away in 1993, and the Greg Duke Memorial Recreation Area, comprising six lakes, was established in his memory. A stone cairn and plaque were installed overlooking Irene Lake in the nineties. As the trail became disused, this cairn became overgrown with trees and brush. The portions of the boardwalks that were not constructed of treated wood fell apart, and the outhouse and picnic table likewise were taken over by forest.

All that is changing. Permission has been obtained from BC Rec Sites and Trails to re-establish the trail as far as the second lake (Norden Lake). The first major WNMS work bee on May 15 with thirteen volunteers involved clearing large amounts of deadfall and new growth along the old trail-bed, and re-opening the areas around the cairn, picnic table and outhouse, and installing viewpoint benches. The second phase will involve rebuilding the boardwalks and dock area. The third and final phase will be the installation of interpretive Geopark and Ducks Unlimited signage.

Offers have already been received from industry to support this project with donations of materials and time. Members of Greg Duke’s family have been traced, and are enthusiastic supporters of this work. A grand re-opening ceremony is planned.

For people like historian Thomas Clark, such a project is of supreme importance, as it cherishes our pioneers and re-creates our connections with our heritage and our surroundings. Those on the work bee had a profound feeling of contributing to something significant. Hopefully the Greg Duke Trail will soon take its rightful place in the pantheon of Geopark attractions.

The trailhead is on the left, just a couple of kilometres before the entrance to Monkman Provincial Park. The trail is ready to be enjoyed, provided the old boardwalks are avoided. Return distance for the trail to the far end of Norden Lake (with more impressive mountain views) is 3 km.