Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Alberta
As you drive towards Medicine Hat there is a turnoff that leads you to a hidden gem in south eastern Alberta. Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park is an oasis in a seemingly endless area of ranch lands. Heavily treed with lodge pole pines and dotted with lakes and grasslands, Cypress is an impressive sight. Most visitors come in the summer to hang out at the beach, but there are about 50 kilometers of hiking and biking trails in the area and plenty of groomed cross country ski and snowshoe trails in the winter.
We were fortunate enough to be able to work on Old Baldy trail despite the fire ban and trail closures. The Old Baldy trail is accessible from the visitor centre and campgrounds so it sees thousands of users. It brings users up to a peak that overlooks the lake and the town of Elkwater and users formed their own trail straight down the fall line to get back to the campground. Once the grass roots were destroyed, water and user based erosion created a large scar on the landscape. Hiking trail through grasslands is some of the toughest design work to do, but we managed to create an efficient line back to the trail head that was also sustainable.
We had a great crew of volunteers from around the region. We were also under the watchful eye of the park's firefighters to make sure that the grassy slope we were on didn't erupt into flames. Working in a fire line formation we were able to build 150 meters of new singletrack and began the reclamation process along the deep scar line. The volunteers were amazed at how much they were able to accomplish when working together efficiently and that the finished trail was not noticeable from the trail head even though it was located on a grassy slope.
Our heartfelt thanks goes out to Chris and Aaron of Alberta Parks for inviting us out to the park. A big thank you to Dave and Scott from the fire crew for helping out with tool prep and during the build.