Last Sunday, the 11th of June 2023, the Cowichan Lake Trail Blazer Society (CLTBS) held the inaugural Fairserviice Fun Festival 2023. We celebrated the culmination of six years of dedicated work with a grand opening of the Fairservice Fun trail network. Over 100 cyclists, hikers, community leaders, volunteers, and supporters turned out on a sunny Sunday morning to explore the new trails.

The Cowichan Lake Community Forest Co-operative kicked off the proceedings by presenting a cheque for $7,000 to help build a new bridge over Beaver Creek. This donation completes the matching funds needed for the Island Coastal Economic Trust grant, with support also coming from Mosaic Forest Management, the Ts’uubaa-asatx First Nation, and the Pacific Salmon Foundation.

CLTBS President Bob Day then thanked other major donors, board members, and volunteers who’ve helped bring to life the dream of trails sketched on a map over drinks. He invited a few major stakeholders to speak.

Cathy Robertson, General Manager of Community Futures Cowichan, helped secure and administer the Rural Dividend Fund grant from the province. She shared how the dream started with encouragement from stakeholders, such as Mosaic, to strategically allocating the provincial funds to build the society and design the trail system. That CLTBS is now running on its own, and besides earning important grants, trail building, mapping, and other work recently also implemented a trail-building program with school children. She concluded her remarks with a quote from Dr. Seuss, “You’re off to great places. Today is your day. Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way.”

Molly Hudson, Director of Sustainability at Mosaic Forest Management, spoke of how the company has been developing land-use agreements as a way to support communities throughout Vancouver Island. The Fairservice Fun and Christopher Rock trail systems have been favourite projects because Mosaic has been able to work so collaboratively with the Cowichan Lake Trail Blazer Society from the beginning. The company is very excited about the upcoming restoration on Beaver Creek and the educational opportunities that enhanced trail will offer.

Kenzie Knight, Coordinator at Tourism Cowichan, related how the hiking and biking trails in the Lake Cowichan area will expand the tourism season into the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, and perhaps even winter. Not only will these new trails bring visitors to the area, but they offer the opportunity for all to experience the beauty of nature and the forest.

On hand for the momentous ribbon cutting were the Cowichan Lake ambassadors, crowned just the day before. Lady of the Lake Lara Court and her first and second princesses, Olivia Youmans and Megan Bell, cut through all the red tape as if they’d been doing it all year long, instead of just a few hours.

With the trails officially declared open, groups of hikers and bikers departed on forest adventures, guided by board members from the CLTBS. The group of about 20 mountain bikers included beginners and expert riders making their way from as far away as Nanaimo and Victoria.In a bit more than an hour the planned route of about 11km was completed, and riders enjoyed the different types of trails and even made their way down the step down roll or jump feature on Level Up.

After an hour or so on the trails, the explorers were more than ready to feast on burgers donated by Jake’s on the Lake, cookies and water from Country Grocer, and cold coffee drinks from Ed’s Coffee Shop.

They trails are now open for all hikers and bikers to enjoy. The trail signs have scannable QR codes which link users to the trail network overview on Riders and hikers are encouraged to use the trailforks mobile app up for navigation and information. You can also view the same maps on the Fairservice Fun section of the trailforks website.