For this week’s Charitable Choices feature, we spoke with president Liz Bicknell to learn more about Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA). VITA focuses on maintaining and building the Vancouver Island Trail, with the help of Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders, by connecting existing and creating new trails.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Vancouver Island Trail Association (VITA) is building new and linking existing trails on Vancouver Island to create a continuous track from Victoria in the south to Cape Scott at the northern tip of the Island. Passing through many unceded traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples (IP), the Vancouver Island Trail (VIT) will be approximately 800 kilometres in length, showcasing spectacular landscapes, Indigenous cultures and Island communities.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Much like the Pacific Crest Trail that connects the states of California, Oregon and Washington, the Vancouver Island Trail runs the length of Vancouver Island and has the potential to be a world-class attraction. The trail will enable both local and international hikers to experience the beautiful and diverse landscapes and scenery as they hike through several Vancouver Island Communities
When did you start/join it?
Construction of the VI Trail started in 2010. Our aim is to have it completed by 2023. It is built and maintained by volunteers. It is a low-impact, light trail and does not involve earthwork or use of heavy equipment. I joined the organization in 2016.
What made you want to get involved?
Covid has been hard on everyone and several studies show the benefit to both one’s physical and mental health when exercising in the great outdoors. It’s exciting being part of something like this that will bring people from all different cultural backgrounds together, in harmony.
What was the situation like when you started?
There were some trails that already existed but no one had the vision to link them up into a continuous trail from Victoria all the way to Cape Scott on the northwestern tip of Vancouver Island.
How has it changed since?
The Vancouver Island Trail is now completely located and well-enough defined to follow along its entire length.
What more needs to be done?
VITA continues to work to develop mutually beneficial, respectful relationships with the many Indigenous Peoples whose traditional territories the Trail crosses through. In addition, several land use agreements and various approvals remain to be completed. For example, VITA needs to formalize trail access across private forest lands, however, we do have a Memorandum of Understanding with the major private forest land manager that provides trail location principles so that planning and trail location can proceed. We also continue to work with the BC Government to ensure there are no legislative hurdles to completing the trail.
How can our readers help?
By checking out our website to familiarize themselves about the trail and then come and hike it, or just sections of it.
Do you have any events coming up?
No specific events, but I invite your readers to get involved by volunteering some time to clear or brush trail, and to help build some bridge structures.
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?
The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC. They advocate for non-motorized access to trails and the backcountry throughout British Columbia.