Instead of feeling pity for the cyclist caught in the rain struggling up Burnaby Mountain, drivers will soon feel envious when those same riders are going up the mountain under a canopy of trees.
The newest addition to the trail system on Burnaby Mountain is the Sidewinder, which is part of a three-phased link between the Pipeline Trail at the base of the mountain and the upper perimeter trails that travel parallel to University Drive.
Henry deJong has been with the city for 26 years and he's a park design technician. He has worked on the Sidewinder since 2010.
"We have 28-and-a-half kilometres of maintained trails on Burnaby Mountain," he said. "This new trail (is) 1,140-metres long."
Currently, the public can only access the Sidewinder from a trail connection near UniverCity, but by 2015 it will connect to a trailhead on Gaglardi Way, just north of North Road.
"We just started breaking ground on phase two, which starts at the top of Gaglardi Way close to the intersection," he said. "We constructed a trailhead there and a staging area for construction."
Due to timing and funding, the city won't be able to complete the second phase of the trail until next year.
"We're (also) limited to a certain wildlife window," he said. "The bird-nesting window starts on April 1 and finishes July 31, so we don't do any construction during that window, unless we do a bird survey."
The Sidewinder was under construction Aug. 1, 2012 until it opened in January, but preliminary work started in 2010 with a trail feasibility and impact study. In 2011, an environmental review was done and further alignment readjustments and hazard tree mitigation followed. Then in 2012, council gave the go ahead and construction finally started.
"The approach to the design of the new trail was to minimize the environmental impact," deJong said. "It's specifically designed this way to shed water. It's a climbing trail, rather than a downhill trail."
The Sidewinder takes about 15 minutes to do, deJong added.
"We included an interpretive layer into the trail design, just to accentuate the ecological value of the mountain with the different flora and fauna," he said. "You get to learn about Burnaby Mountain."
The trail is made with materials that were all found onsite.
"It's fairly innovative," he said. "We only started this three years ago, to show more environmental stewardship. We tried to come up with construction methods that would need less equipment, less trips using fuel, so we looked at some of the principles of using borrow pits."
Borrow pits act as a transaction between the path, as plants and other material are removed from the path, they go into a borrow pit, and material to use from the borrow pit as a trail base go into the path.
"So all the materials that we used are here," he said. "We didn't bring any dump trucks, and we mined the trail basin material from borrow pits."
The borrow pits act as small mines, and for now they can be seen as areas with a few logs laying together, but will eventually be overgrown with flora.
"We're not importing soil, so we're eliminating the risk of introducing evasive species into the landscape," he said. "That's really key."
Another aspect that went into trail design was making sure water is shed quickly from the path.
"You do that by shifting grades," deJong said, noting the average grade for the Sidewinder is 7.5 per cent. "It eliminates the need of putting culverts in. In the past, we did a lot of ditches and culverts, and now we try to shed the water more quickly and often. Rather than building the trail flat and straight, it has a tilt to it."
Although the process takes a long time to develop, and will take an extra year to complete, the next two trails connecting to the Sidewinder, deJong said it's worth it.
"It's a long process," he said. "It's very in-depth, but the steps are necessary to get the best possible trail that will create the least environmental impact. And you want them to last, also."
DeJong said a mother deer and her two fawn frequent the new path and will often greet hikers, bikers and the city staff.
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