The Thornhill Trails in Maple Ridge may be getting improvements and more maintenance, and possibly even the creation of a Thornhill Grind.
On Feb. 16, city hall staff offered a report to council recommending improvements, a formal maintenance agreement with the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association, and the eventual development of a challenging “Grind” trail, styled after North Vancouver’s notorious Grouse Grind.
The south-facing slopes of Grant Hill are often called Thornhill. Named after settler James Thorne, it’s known for steep slopes, mature forest and watercourses, and as a popular trail destination for hikers, equestrian users and mountain biking enthusiasts.
The city owns 200 hectares in the Thornhill Trails area, and maintains Georges Way and Bear Ridge Trails – the most used trails. Some 15 other trails have been constructed and are maintained by user groups.
With increasing popularity of the trails, safety concerns have been raised, and users complain about a disregard for trail etiquette.
That prompted a city trails study in the summer of 2020, and staff collected a surprising 796 comment forms – a testament to the area’s popularity, noted staff. Of these, 72 per cent were from Maple Ridge. More than half of the local users said they access the trail system multiple times a week. Hikers made up 43 per cent of the users, mountain bikers 41 per cent, horse riders 10 per cent and all others six per cent.
Staff is recommending signage, improved wayfinding, and a 256th Street staging area. A Thornhill Trail Maintenance Agreement with the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association is proposed as a pilot project. In the short term, garbage cans and portable washrooms will be added.
Long-term projects include development of The Thornhill Grind. This could potentially follow an existing informal trail alignment on the northeast slopes of Thornhill, said staff.
“Grind-type trails are typically short length, steep grade hiking trails that have proved popular as fitness activities in other municipalities including the Coquitlam Crunch, Grouse Grind and Abby Grind,” notes the report.
Chad Neufeld, manager of parks, planning and development, said the topography of the area is well suited to the creation of a formal ‘grind’ route, with an elevation gain of some 200 metres from Grant Avenue to the top of Thornhill, over a short distance.
There is no formal route at this point, Neufeld said, and if this Grind idea is something that has a significant interest from our community and council, staff will work with trail user groups to explore what is well liked about the regional grinds as part of a process to develop a more detailed plan and route.
“It would be important to ensure that a project like this offers the fitness challenge that users are looking for along with a safe and sustainable design,” he said.
A small staging area for vehicles would be required at a trail head location on the northeast side of Thornhill.
The primary access to the trail system for most users is from the south at 256th street, but users also entered the trail system off 264th and 248th streets as secondary access points. Most of the parking is along the rural roads.
Hikers enjoy that the trails are not overcrowded, mountain bikers say they are fun to ride, and equestrian users say the trails are both challenging and away from vehicle traffic.
Coun. Ahmed Yousef clarified these are “wholly non-motorized trails,” and staff noted this is enforced by bylaws officers.
Coun. Kiersten Duncan said the informal trails should also be mapped and maintained by the city, and asked that Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue be involved in the trail development and mapping.
The issue is scheduled to be back before council for approval on Feb. 23.
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