Developer Plans to Retain Trails on Cheema Lands

Published: June 21, 2016
LUMBERJACK, Roller Coaster, and the Covenant are just some of the trails that could be retained and a few new ones built as an early plan to integrate a widely used trail network with inevitable residential development in Garibaldi Highlands. 
A Vancouver-based developer who owns property on Garibaldi Highlands wants to work with the local mountain biking and trails community and the district to retain some important biking and hiking trails on Lots  509 and 510, also known as the Cheema Lands, a 450 acres of mixed-forest hillside north of Garibaldi Highlands and west of Mashiter Creek. 
Bob Cheema owns both the lots but the land has a municipal restriction: It can’t be developed until the town’s population reaches 25,000. Three years ago, the developer had written to the district asking to remove restrictions on the property but the motion was defeated by the previous council. The prospect of residential development down the road had amplified concerns of growth overtaking an extensive and a popular trail network used by bikers, hikers and dog walkers. SORCA had been working with the developer to ensure trails are retained when the time comes for the development to go ahead.
Local environmental consultant Mike Nelson who works for Cheema says he accepted the advisory position because of an opportunity to protect and scale the bike trail network in the area. Mike recently spoke to the council on the developer’s plans to retain the popular trails on the property when it develops. Nelson said Mountain Bike Magazine had noted the bike trails in the district as one of the top 25 wildest and exotic places to ride in the world with trails such as Half-Nelson being noted in magazine as far away as Australia. The preservation of trails in Squamish would not only place the town at the world stage but will add to the cultural, tourism and economic well-being of the town and its citizens, he said.
“We are very early in the process but we want to work with the trail users and the district on retaining these trails and on parking and staging area so we can tie the trail network with the development of the subdivision,” Nelson said.
 Nelson said he had met with Squamish Trails Society and SORCA several times to study the trail-use patterns and find what was needed and what must be retained. He said an early trails draft was being worked before the population in Squamish grows to the point where the development can go ahead. The developer, he said, wanted to plan early so there was a trail strategy in place when the time comes for the development application to go to the planning department. 
SORCA president Jeff Cooke said the group had met with developer Bob Cheema and his team a few times and they intended to work with him so the trail network could be at least maintained and possibly enhanced. Cooke said SORCA’s goal was to make sure there was access to the trails beyond the Lots 509 and 510 and towards the Alice Lake area from existing residential areas by maintaining existing connections or by creating new ones. 
Cooke said the development would  mean the loss of trails but the goal is to enhance the core trails that remain or work with the developer on building some new trails. He said SORCA was looking forward to see a more robust and detailed trail plan as a part of rezoning and planning process. 
“The meetings and the conversations have been positive and SORCA is positive that we can, on behalf of all mountain bikers in the community, work towards an outcome that we can all feel good about,” Cooke said.