The Greg Duke lakes trail is re-established

Charles Helm, Wolverine Nordic & Mountain Society

Fifteen volunteers of the Wolverine Nordic & Mountain Society (WNMS) were joined by a team of eleven from Spectra Energy on Friday July 15th at the Greg Duke Lakes Trail. By the end of the day boardwalks had been installed, the old dock had been rebuilt, Ducks Unlimited signage had been erected, the trail as far as the end of the second lake (Norden Lake) had been brushed clear, and the parking lot had been cleared of brush. Soon interpretive Geopark signage and good roadside signage will complete this phase of the project.

Greg Duke was a much loved, long-time forester and trapper who passed away in 1993. The Greg Duke Memorial Recreation Area, comprising six lakes, was developed for hiking and fishing by the Ministry of Forests in the mid-1990s. Due to funding cutbacks the project lapsed. Over time the well-constructed trail, which included a memorial stone cairn and plaque, 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 dock at the first lake (Irene Lake) is just 400 metres in length, and is relatively flat. There is a shortage of such short, easy trails in the region, and rebuilding this trail has created another hiking opportunity for those that are not able to tackle more demanding trails. The trailhead is on the left, on the Murray Forest Service Road just a couple of kilometres before the entrance to Monkman Provincial Park. Return distance for the trail to the far end of Norden Lake is 4 km.

A side trip to the Greg Duke Lakes 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 views of Castle Mountain and the Albright Ridge reflected in the lakes from the viewpoint benches are pretty unique for the area, and the birdlife and other wildlife in the wetland areas is impressive.

The involvement of Spectra Energy is most significant. The importance cannot be overstated of regional industry providing in-kind support and a welcome cheque donation to facilitate the development of a Geosite in the Tumbler Ridge UNESCO Global Geopark. Jay Morrison, Government and Community Relations Lead for Spectra Energy, commented: “Spectra Energy partners with local communities.  It was a pleasure for us to volunteer side-by-side with the passionate group of people at the Wolverine Nordic & Mountain Society to enhance and revitalize the area.  This is a fantastic project that will benefit the community for years to come and we are proud to be a part of it.”

Such trail development falls under Recreation Sites and Trails BC. Trevor Hann, Recreation Officer for the Peace – Fort Nelson Region, was on hand to witness and play a large part in the trail work, and commented: “Truly inspiring to work with members of the WNMS!  This passionate group takes great pride in maintaining the trails around Tumbler Ridge; with the goal of sharing their backyard to anyone who is fortunate enough to experience this amazing little community and the endless recreational opportunities that it has to offer. Keep up the great work!”

Local historian Thomas Clark took a bunch of the volunteers to identify and re-establish the trail to the third lake (Barber Lake). Eventually he hopes that all six lakes will become accessible through the trail system. For Thomas such a project is of supreme importance, as it cherishes the memory of our pioneers and re-creates our connections with our heritage and our surroundings. Having the support of members of Greg Duke’s family adds another dimension to this work.

It takes a vibrant community to successfully stage a work bee like this: great donated transportation support from Bill Woods of Embassy Maintenance, expert helicopter service from Marc Bresse of Ridge Rotors, lumber cut to length as a donation from Dean Turner at ACE Hardware, and support from Pernell Kirby (Southpaw Rentals & Sales). Plus of course the hard work of the WNMS volunteers, who had already assembled the boardwalks in town over the preceding weeks.

By the end of the day, another tourism attraction had been created for the region and our UNESCO Global Geopark, and a bunch of volunteers and supporters had a great sense of having contributed to something worthwhile for Tumbler Ridge.