We recently distributed a survey to many members of the trail and hiking community. This survey was sent in order to receive information on how we can make trails a better and safer experiences for users and operators. We received considerable feedback on various issues and we will be reviewing the best approaches to deal with these issues. Thanks to all those who took the time to complete the “Trail User” or the “Trail Operator” Surveys. Some of the issues that were identified include:
Number of Trails in Saskatchewan
Issue: Many people indicated that Saskatchewan does not have an adequate number of trails. This could also be due to lack of knowledge of current trails. Walking and running are leading for use of trails but just barely, snowmobiling, ATVing, skiing, and cycling all follow very close behind.
Outcome: We would all love more trails in Saskatchewan. Unfortunately, it is a long and expensive process to build new trails and continue to maintain them. We are working on building new trails in the future, as well as reopening and maintaining current trails, but we also want to focus on educating the trail community on all of the currently operational trails. The survey showed mixed results to where new trails should be made, but there was a consensus that new trails and methods to find new trails should be made. We have been promoting the STA’s trail directory and other sources to find trails on social media as well as the blog and newsletter. One person suggested “The park could sponsor family biking days, where local bike shops take groups out for training rides.” This could work if more trail directors ran event days to spread awareness about trails like Meewasin does. Diversity in the trails is required, both longer day trails and short trails requested with varying difficulty.
Issue: For the most part, the majority of survey takers felt safe on the trails, the few whom didn’t suggesting culling wild hogs, more shelters in Prince Albert National Park, and drinking and driving checks for snowmobilers and ATVers.
Outcome: We will be looking into the possibilities of finding solutions for these problems as well as educating trail users on how to avoid these issues to begin with!
Issue: The general consensus on signage was that it is all right and is somewhat adequate. Many commented they would like more signage, maps, and signs to show Point of Interests (POIs) on their journey. Most people search for trails using internet and word of mouth with few using trail guides or apps. There should be more promotion of the STA’s trail directory and resources blog as people will find it easier to access the info they are looking for. The info people want to know about parks is their location, condition reports, maps, snow condition, and trail descriptions.
Outcome: We will continue to promote information like trail locations, reports, maps, and descriptions as well as working with trail operators and various trails to improve signage and make them aware of the issues in order to better solve these issues.
Issue: There seems to be disagreement between two groups of people in regard to ATV use. One side argues there are not enough ATV trails and information while others argue that ATVers wreck the trails, are dangerous and don’t respect the land. Drinking and riding laws and enforcement was also brought up multiple times.
Outcome: This is a difficult issue to address. Many people have suggested various plans or ideas to fix this problem. Currently, we are gathering more information and opinions in order to see all points of view and do what we can to address this particular issue.
Issue: Many trail users pointed out that there are trails that are not being maintained whether the damage be from ATVs, weather, litter, or just usage. The lack of maintenance makes these trails less enjoyable, more difficult to use, or completely unusable.
Outcome: Maintenance is a large job. Many trails rely on user groups and volunteers to clean up and assist in maintaining the trails. This is an issue that is directly linked to trail budgets and that we will be further looking into and discussing with trail operators to find a solution for.
Leave No Trace
One survey respondent recommended it would be nice to see Saskatchewan adopt the Leave No Trace principles on all their trails. www.leavenotrace.ca. This could potentially decrease some of the maintenance issues.
Outcome: We also want to learn more about any possible ways to improve the quality of Saskatchewan trails so we will be looking further into these possibilities.
Issue: Lack of amenities was something that appeared a few times in the survey. Lack of washrooms and garbage cans often create unneeded waste being disposed of on the trails. This creates a larger need for trail maintenance which is already lacking. Amenities such as washrooms, garbage and shelters would alleviate some of the issues trail users are having and make it easier to hold various events.
Outcome: We will be reviewing these findings to determine the best steps to do what we can to address this issue. In the future we are looking at growing the amenities at various trails to help keep trails clean and promote events.
Issue: Trail operators have some concerns and issues including maintenance, budgeting, and consistent grants. We also heard about the difficulties being faced and potential fixes to some of the problems.
Outcome: We will be taking in this info for further evaluation and continuing discussion with trail operators on how we can find solutions to these issue and better work together with the community to improve the trails throughout Saskatchewan.
The one thing everybody seemed to agree on was that they enjoyed using trails and trails are a great activity for groups and families! We are working on taking all of the info we received from you and using it to identify the largest issues and the best plans of attack to combat these issues. Thanks to your help, we are hopefully going to be able to make the trails a greater experience for all users. We love to see trail users out on the trail enjoying their time in nature and soaking up everything trails have to offer. Keep it up and trail on!