Have you ever wandered through the stunning natural beauty of Chilliwack’s vast trail network and thought to yourself, ‘Who maintains these magnificent paths?’ Perhaps you’ve even caught sight of someone, tirelessly working away to clear fallen trees and collect garbage. If so, you may have had the privilege of crossing paths with the legendary Arlene Ladd.
Arlene Ladd is a true guardian of the backcountry horse trails in the Manning, Coquihalla, Cultus Lake, Vedder Mountain, and Chilliwack River Valley regions. As Vice Chair and Trail Coordinator for the Yarrow Chapter of the Backcountry Horsemen of BC (BCHBC), Arlene has dedicated the past eight years of her life to serving and protecting these trails, and is the embodiment of a Protector, working tirelessly to Protect this Gift we call Chilliwack.
About the Backcountry Horsemen of BC
The BCHBC is a non-profit organization that provides equestrians interested in trail riding and the backcountry, with a safe and social learning environment. Through collaboration with individuals, government, businesses, and other recreational users of public lands, the BCHBC strives to preserve and enhance the use of public lands for all equestrians, allowing people of all ages the ability to enjoy trail riding and wilderness experiences.
Where it all Began
Arlene’s love for the backcountry has been a part of her life since childhood. Growing up in Ryder Lake, horse riding was second nature in her family. She spent her free time exploring the trails all over Ryder Lake, and what is now Promontory. She and her friends would head out and explore the trails, and instead of returning home, they would often set up camp, watch the sun go down, and sleep under the stars – taking in every bit of beauty that the Chilliwack River Valley has to offer. Today, Arlene still loves to take camping trips out to the backcountry, but this time with a much cozier camper setup!
Arlene’s passion for protecting and preserving nature runs deep. She is passionate about educating others who share her love of the backcountry and devotes countless hours to cleaning up the trails every week. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare, but Arlene is passionate about her work and is dedicated to protecting and restoring nature for future generations.
We spent a day with Arlene and watched the hard work it takes to get her horse (and pack mule!) loaded up for a day of backcountry cleanup. The process is extensive – from first tethering in her truck and trailer, to loading up her animals, to then unloading and saddling up her horse and mule for a day of cleaning and restoring on the trail. She told us the best part of the day is when everything is done, and she first sits on the saddle – there’s nothing quite like enjoying that moment, where your day begins out on the trail.
Arlene wrote a poem to express the feelings of her work and time spent on the trail:
The forest is calling us
The path that we follow
To the sweet smell of the trees
Draping us with calm, cleansing our souls
The birds are singing
Calling us to
The mountains following the path.
Magnificent and mighty
It brings us high.
Filling us with joy; so surreal
We hear the rivers calling us down the path.
The powerful sound washes through us,
rejuvenating our spirits.
Come ride down the path
To the glorious nature that is freedom to us.
Arlene’s moment of gratitude on her saddle is much like the moments of gratitude we each have experienced on trails that have been so graciously cleaned and prepared for us by hard-working volunteer groups. It takes a lot of hard work to prepare and maintain the trails in the Chilliwack area, but as Arlene says, the moments of enjoying your hard work are truly priceless.
WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE BACKCOUNTRY RIGHT NOW?
We’re going to be honest – it’s not looking so good in some areas.
For the most part in Chilliwack, our close proximity trails are well maintained, and the waste impact that we see is somewhat minimal (due to the City’s involvement in cleanup/maintenance, as well as local individuals and volunteer groups). However, the further you push out into the backcountry trails, the more apparent the issues become.
Arlene has identified several significant areas of waste impact in her coverage area, which she considers to be the greatest “pain points” in her coverage area. See below for the complete list as well as ways that you can become an active member in Protecting This Gift.
Arlene tells us that a big issue she has seen during her trail maintenance is waste cleanup at campsites. The sites may be short or long-term sites, but for the most part, they are often abandoned, and filled with non-compostable garbage. The garbage may be small – like cans, wrappers, and bottles – or, it might be large – like, mattresses, camp chairs, and tarps. Arlene says her teams will do what they can to clear away the garbage, but it is becoming harder and harder for them to keep up with the trash ultimately takes them away from what the BCHBC is truly there to do – to clear and maintain the trails.
How can you improve your camping experience?
It’s simple – pack out what you pack in. Plan ahead with the appropriate gear to take your waste home. We love this reusable outdoor trash bin, which makes garbage collection and transportation at any campsite a breeze!
Another issue that Arlene shared was the issue of inappropriate dumping of garbage.
Right now, Arlene and the BCHBC are seeing a steady increase in the amount of garbage and household waste (that belongs in the landfill), being dumped in and around the Chilliwack River Valley. This is extremely harmful to not only the environment (as most waste takes decades to break down), but also to wildlife, who can be seriously harmed/impacted by the disruption to their environment.
+ What resources are available for removing household waste?
The City of Chilliwack has a dedicated landfill to help dispose of your garbage in the appropriate way. If you’re not sure of how or where to dispose of your waste, check out the ‘Waste Wizard’ on the City of Chilliwack website. Simply enter what you are needing to dispose of, and the ‘Waste Wizard’ will tell you how to recycle or dispose of the item(s).
The BCHBC often finds pet waste bags tossed off the sides of trails which, more often than not, do not decompose.
+ What can we as pet parents do to better clean up after our pets?
When there are garbage cans available, ensure that you are cleaning up after your pet with a biodegradable bag and placing it in the appropriately designated garbage cans. If you are without a bag, the next best thing is to grab a stick and clear the waste fully off of the trail; it will decompose over time (this is much better than leaving it for someone to step on, or putting it into a bag but choosing to throw it into nature instead of a garbage can!).
OTHER WAYS TO PROTECT THIS GIFT
Proper waste disposal is not the only way we can work together as a collective to Protect This Gift. We can also work towards actively participating in sustainable and responsible tourism.
+ Be prepared: Ensure you have a clear idea of the trail systems you are visiting, and tell your family and friends where you are headed and when you are expected to return (bonus points for bringing someone with you!).
+ Be respectful: Leave things the way that you found them. This means that unless you are part of an organized cleanup or maintenance group, please do not: trim trees, move artifacts, or take home pieces of nature.
+ Be safe: Ensure that you have the proper protection and communication gear with you at all times – this includes personal safety to protect against injury, animals, fire, water, and vehicle incidents. Plus, ensure you have a fully charged cell phone with you (or a satellite phone if you are in a no-service zone). Be careful where you take those selfies! We know your friends love seeing the adventures you get up to – but, standing too close to the edge of a cliff, river bank or otherwise is simply not worth risking your life for.
+ Leave enriched: Experience the cultural learnings of the Stó:lō-Coast Salish people through their wisdom, stories, and value of nature with respect and harmony. Work towards keeping the wild, wild – and, be present as best you can. Breathe in the deep, rich, velvety air of the forest. Feel the warmth of the golden rays of the sunrise on your face. Close your eyes and listen to the rhythm of the trees. Practice stillness in a world of constant movement, and leave feeling enriched.
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED WITH THE BCHBC?
The BCHBC group is always looking for new members! In fact, you don’t even have to own a horse to join!
You can join as a member on their website ($50 for adults, 19+, and Juniors are free with a family membership!) which will give you access to their social events, trail maintenance days, educational seminars, and more (plus, you’ll probably meet new lifelong friends – which is priceless!).
If you want to support the BCHBC but aren’t able to join as a member – you can simply donate to their organization through their website HERE.