Merrill Harrop Trail 2018 Improvements

Sustainable trail improvements have been accomplished. For a particular project at John Dean Park (17-21 Dec 18, full days), I’ve never received so many compliments. Thank-you so much for your support and appreciation for this high-level trail stewardship.

Anyone familiar with the Merrill Harrop Trailhead at Alec Road, knows the long exposed polished Douglas fir root that people were slipping on. Recently, an 18”stonewall was built over the root, and the trail was shifted over one foot, and the trail surface was graded. Although a minor improvement, the West Entrance is now safe, sustainable, and looks cared for versus neglected. Fresh clear crush was also spread over the surface.

Regulars will also be familiar with the upper rocky reroute (2002) stretch. Recently, the two narrow spots that were held up by spongy failing logs were renovated. Wait until you see these two spots now! Thanks to the guidance received from Andrew Mitchell, this project was done correctly and will last for decades. The rotten supporting logs and a rotten stump were removed, and large stones were properly placed. Next, a knee high stonewall was built and correctly back filled with small binding rocks. These two stretches are now safe and sustainable. Also, the steepest sloping stretch received six new stone steps. This steep spot consistently has water draining from the meadow above, had eroded, was root exposed, and because it was on slopping rock it was difficult to walk on, especially on colder days.

 

MERRILL HARROP TRAIL BACKGROUND

Throughout the summer and autumn of 1987, Edo Nyland and Ted Greenwood surveyed, planned, and flagged the west-side Alec Road Trail.

On January 22, 1988, Edo Nyland (Friends President) wrote the BC Parks Zone Supervisor, to report 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, on January 26, Edo received permission to continue the east side trail westward to Alec Road.

Volunteer moral was high, and steady progress was happening weekly. The new “Alec Road Crew” was led by Ted Greenwood. Ted guided 11 regular volunteers who worked from Alec Road upwards. To build the Woodward Trail, the 20 available regulars split into two crews. The “Central Saanich Crew” consisted of six regulars and was led by Conroy Schultz. They started the Woodward Trail working from the West Viewpoint Trail eastward. The “East Side Crew” consisted of 14 regulars and was led by Edo Nyland. They started the Woodward Trail as a continuation of the Barret Montfort Trail and worked westward. By mid-April the two crews met just west of today’s Illahie Trailhead, and the Woodward Trail was opened for public use. Next, they all started on the Alec Road Trail. They worked from the West Viewpoint Trail down/westward, and built the upper quarter of the trail. On the weekend of 14-15 May, 1988, the “Alec Road Crew” and the “Upper Crew” met at the point where a series of drainage channel is now maintained, just above where the winter stream runs under the trail.

Merrill Harrop was a long-time resident, respected member of the equestrian community and was a regular partaker of the “Alec Road Crew”. Although he was older, his personality and experience motivated the crew. Between February and May 1988, on Saturday and Sunday mornings, Merrill road his horse from his West Saanich Road farm, cross-country to Alec Road and up the new trail. Merrill left his horse just below that days working section. Almost immediately, the trail crew came across the remains of a dead horse. Soon after, that skeleton was removed by students from UVIC for further study. I’ve heard working with Merrill was positive and was also “attention-grabbing times”. During this period, Merrill gathered the second largest number of signatures for the west-side land addition petition. If there was a weekly theme, it was horses. If originally intended or not, the trail was built to bridal width. Jo Doman, a co-founder of the Friends, suggested the name Merrill Harrop Trail. Suddenly that name became the expected and hoped for name by everyone involved.

STEWARDSHIP – My hands-on stewardship at John Dean Park began Easter weekend 1989. Though I was aware of the Merrill Harrop Trail, my proactive and consistent maintenance of this trail didn’t begin until the 1992-93 winter (age 18). Since my start on this trail, I’ve created and maintain the drainage channels, groom vegetation, remove fallen trees and debris, maintain the signage, have rerouted and/or upgraded nearly every stretch of trail, and continually search for and remove baby ivy throughout the West Block. After 26 years of working this provincial park trail, it’s now considered safe, enjoyable, and sustainable.

IVY CONCERN – In October of 1993, Edo Nyland and I followed the parks south line from Alec Road up to the West Viewpoint. Near the bottom we found a huge patch of ivy covering the ground and up every tree. We returned a week later to cut the major vines, and to at least force a delay in its spreading. However we knew the ivy removal priority was Illahie. In 2010, it was my great honour to return with a few nearby residents and whip-out that ivy patch. Because Ivy seeds are being deposited by birds, future volunteers will need to conduct cross country ivy monitoring, take initial action, and long-term follow up will be needed to ensure the park remains ivy-free.

 

MAJOR TRAIL CONTRIBUTORS (Alec Road Trail)

TED & GWEN GREENWOOD – Were the first residents to suggest the land addition idea. They surveyed the west-side proposed route (1987), and coordinated the trails construction (1988).

EDO NYLAND – Founder and president of the Friends of John Dean Park (1984-1990) & (1996-2000); Nyland coordinated the land addition campaign, the west-side trail construction, and acquired the most land addition petition signatures (1987-88).

JO DOMAN – Founder and director of the Friends of John Dean Park (1984-1999); Jo planned and facilitated the land addition petition. Active within the equestrian community, Jo encouraged a west-side bridle route, and proposed the name Merrill Harrop Trail.

MERRILL HARROP – On May 21, 1988, the Alec Road Trail was named in honour of Merrill, a long-time resident. For years Merrill had taught the skills of horse-riding to youth at his ranch along West Saanich Road, and in 1978 he published a book: Schooling the Young Horse. He easily gathered hundreds of land-addition petition signatures from the farming community.

Dr. TERRY HUBERTS, Minister of State for Vancouver Island/Coast and North Coast, Responsible for Parks (1988-89), MLA for Saanich and the Islands. – Dr. Huberts was instrumental in bringing to fruition this west-side land addition to John Dean Provincial Park.

ANDREW MITCHELL – A long-time resident and retired Forester, Andrew has been a regular on the trail since 2003. In 2009, Andrew removed many tripping hazards from the trail and placed clay based soils over roots. From his university time and throughout his carrier with the BC Forest Service, Andrew has used his teachings and experience to bring together all aspects of study for land use decisions. In Forestry, he effected many adjustments in operating practices and policy. Though our dozens of conversations, he has bestowed upon me the bearings of trail gradient, sustainably, safety, and the necessity of building correctly versus a quick fix.

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