Coquitlam Search and Rescue volunteers will be busy on Tri-City trails for the rest of the summer in a bid to prevent hikers from getting lost in the backcountry.
The group will be heading up to several local trails and installing 750 reflective trail markers, making it easier for hikers to navigate up and down the mountains and improving safety for rescuers. The project was made possible with funding from the Buntzen Lake Wardens (BC Hydro), the Valley Outdoor Association, the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and Coquitlam SAR.
The three-inch-square markers are made of heavy-duty aluminum and come pre-drilled in the corners so volunteers can simply hammer them into trees along the trail. Their orange reflective surface will help hikers spot them easily, particularly in failing light, when most people get lost, said Coquitlam SAR's Steve Chapman, who spearheaded the project.
"What we're doing is putting additional information on to those markers, so rather than just the plain marker, we're putting what trail it is and what the elevation is," Chapman said. "The idea of that is if a hiker is lost on the trail, they can find a marker and if they're able to ring us up, that will give us lots of information."
A mapping project Chapman undertook for Coquitlam SAR, in which he painstakingly mapped and charted dozens of Tri-City trails, means a lost hiker who calls rescuers with trail marker information — such as the 500 m elevation on the Swan Falls trail — will give rescuers a precise location to target.
SAR volunteers started the project with a 10-hour reconnaissance hike along the Swan Falls loop last week.
"We're concentrating on the higher areas in Buntzen first, so that by definition means a lot of hiking just to get to the starting point were we can start putting them up," Chapman said, noting the goal is to get the higher elevations marked first before the snow starts falling.
"Ideally, what we want is that if you're on the trail, at any point, you can always see the next trail marker," Chapman said. "If that's not the case it's really easy to get off track."
The trips also give SAR volunteers a chance to check for other hazards such as trees that have blown down or other things that need replacing, Chapman said.
A return trip to the Swan Falls trail on Saturday with BC Parks staff gave them a chance to replace a rope that was frayed and dangerous and to replace a dilapidated bridge.
After the Buntzen trails are tackled, volunteers will turn to Burke Mountain, an area that Chapman said is "very poorly marked."