By 1987, the parks clean-up was well underway. On January 9, 1987, the founder and president of the Friends, Edo Nyland met with the BC Parks Zone Supervisor; Parks Planner; Resource Technician & Surveyor; and the Visitor Services Representative. They toured the old-growth valley, out the West Viewpoint, along the Surveyors’ Trail and up the Thomson Cabin Trail. They inspected the new airport radar facility, the viewing platform and the upper roadside safety fence; they agreed there was much to do in the park. The Parks Planner said: “the Master Plan would be done this year, with the Friends in-put.”
After three years of: monitoring the summit access road; the building of the airport radar; opposing a reservoir site within the park; hedging against the misuse of the park; and removing decade’s worth of accumulated garbage throughout – the Friends of John Dean Park initiated the park’s first trail restoration project since 1957.
On February 20, 1987, with the assistance of the BC Parks Zone Supervisor, Edo applied for a grant to repair the main trails. Responding to questions on the form, he wrote: (1) “Trail system of John Dean Park which was constructed 1936-37, and badly in need of some work.” (2) “Replace footbridge constructed in 1937 and almost totally rotted away. It’s dangerous (10’ span, 6’ width). Resurface and crown main access trail with ¾” road base material, to be covered with standard cedar bark chips. Machine rental to transport materials.” (3) “This is only maintenance of existing park trails and footbridge. The work is essential if this park is to be kept up.” On March 26, the requested grant of $1,395 was approved.
To describe the initial survey of the Barret Montfort Trail, Edo wrote: “On Saturday, March 21, 1987, Neil Michaluk and I started at noon following the east boundary of John Dean Park, from the park road south into Central Saanich, until we reached the highest point on the boundary closest to where the Central Saanich municipal park reaches John Dean Park. Here we went a few feet up hill and started flagging our way back north along the foot of a massive cliff. The going turned out to be relatively easy and a good trail can be constructed here, with only three or four sets of steps.”
On May 8, 1987, Edo met with the Parks Planner and the Park Manager in the park. After visiting the Duck Pond, they inspected and approved the recently flagged east-side trail. This trail would connect the Gail Wickens’ Trail to the park’s entrance, and continue to Gillian Manner (now Dunsmuir Lodge). Afterwards they went for “…a meal at the Sidney Hotel. Back to my place by 7pm, good meal etc. The four of us devoured a chicken, half a loaf of homemade bread, buns etc., finished by 7:30pm when the first guests arrived.”
Edo, the two from Parks and six others participated in a planning meeting where they discussed: the need for a perimeter trail; removal of the picnic site fire-pit; no additional facilities; park history interpretive signage; installation of a night gate; and a brochure with history and map. After expressing his gratitude, the Park Manager, Don Carruthers presented a check for $1,395 for the main trail improvements.
Shortly afterwards, Edo arranged for two loads of gravel and a machine to re-grade and surface the 8” deep, washed-out Valley Mist Trail Easy. Also, four scoops were placed on eroded sections leading down towards the Duck Pond. And on May 23, 1987, a crew of volunteers replaced the Rambling Footbridge on Skipper’s Path.
On September 21, 1987, BC Parks authorised the Friends to construct the east-side trail. The October 1987 newsletter offered: “Anyone willing to work on the new trail will find work to his liking, be it setting stones, grub-hoe work, building wooden steps, cementing small retaining walls, bridging swampy areas, constructing tables and benches at the south-east viewpoint, making a pot of coffee for the workers or just simply recording the whole process on film for posterity.”
Today’s Montfort West was built entirely by Edo Nyland, and was opened by Halloween. Montfort East had a consistent crew of a dozen volunteers who worked on Saturdays, with several regulars who also worked during the week. It was open and usable by mid-December 1987, and tentatively named Sunrise Trail
On January 22, 1988, Edo wrote the Park Manager in Gold Stream, reporting the east-side trail had been completed: “Sometime last year I drew on a contour map the continuation of our trail in a westerly direction, which we sent to you. I would appreciate it if you could inspect this flagged trail on the ground and pass on your opinion about this proposed location. If continuation is acceptable, I would like to have your approval in writing so that we can continue our work. We have a group of about 14 people working on Saturdays; some of them steady workers while others show up only occasionally. The momentum is here and I hate to have to stop the construction process.” By telephone, Edo received permission to continue the trail westward to Alec Road.
By February 8, 1988, the volunteer trail crew had become too large for one project. The main 31 person troop split into three teams. The Alec Road Crew was led by Ted Greenwood; with 11 regulars they worked from the road upwards. The Central Saanich Crew was led by Conroy Schultz; with 6 regulars they started the Woodward Trail, working from the West Viewpoint Trail eastward. The East Side Crew was led by Edo Nyland; with 14 regulars, they started the Woodward Trail as a continuation of the Montfort Trail working westward. By mid-April the Woodward Trail was opened, the upper crews started on the Alec Road trail and worked down/westward. Moral was high, and steady progress was happening weekly. Their chosen deadline for completion was May 20, 1988 – just in time for first Friends Annual Picnic.
The names Montfort and Woodward were chosen to recognize the person who donated that stretch of land. The Alec Road trail was named to honour Merrill Harrop, who helped build the trail and who gathered dozens of petition signatures for the west-side land addition.
With three major trails achieved; the last trail needed to complete the parks outer loop was to be through the north-end. On September 9, 1988, Edo wrote BC Parks: “The North Block of the park is very rough in places and a great deal of searching and back tracing had to be done to find a suitable location. Please come and inspect the work done so far. You are advised to wear old clothes in the logged-over part of the park. If the location of the proposed trail is satisfactory, we could start construction by the end of October.”
The BC Parks Zone Supervisor inspected the proposed North Block route, and on March 10 wrote: “This letter will confirm approval for the Friends of John Dean to construct the section of trail from the Dunsmuir Lodge back to Dean Park Road that we walked on February 2, 1989. Please ensure that the trail is constructed entirely within the park boundary. If there is any doubt please inform me before construction.” Initial blazing started that March, working from the upper road northward. Volunteers worked weekends; during the summer this author laboured nearly every day.
In June 1989, Edo submitted an application for the Environmental Youth Corps of British Columbia to put the finishing touches on the Slektain Trail. By mid-July the project proposal was before their steering committee, and by August 14, Edo had a crew of five youth between ages 16 and 24, and a supervisor who worked for six weeks. They were managed by Jack Thom, whom Edo knew from the Yukon, which created a great working relationship. This crew started at Dunsmuir Lodge and worked southward upgrading the trail. During the autumn of 1990, Crew #2 spent two weeks finalizing the Montfort, and four weeks on the Slektain, they literally finished the trail. And with an overlap, Crew #3 spent two weeks finalizing the Woodward. By November 1990, the new trails had been finished to a high-standard.
Looking to name the North Block trail, on September 11, 1990, this author suggested the Friends ask the Pauquachin Band for a suitable name. Gabe Bartlemen offered the name Slektain, a Hereditary Chief name of Pauquachin. We also conferred the names Thunderbird and LAUWELNEW to the trails that lead to the summit. BC Parks supplied the wooden signs, and we did the installs.
The 1980s was a decade of considerable concern for John Dean Park. Thankfully peninsula residents created the Friends. Today, John Dean Park has its core-1930s trails, and its outer-1980s perimeter trails; both provide a wonderful visitor experience.
A list of the volunteers who constructed the great John Dean Park loop trail, is available in the article: Trail Builders, 1987-90.
By Jarrett Teague