New fences and signage have made the designated paths on Mount Tzouhalem more clear for hikers. (submitted)

Signage, improvements untangle trails on Mount Tzouhalem in Cowichan Valley

Aimed to improve visitor experience and protect habitat

Hikers who make the trek to the cross on Mount Tzouhalem this spring will notice some changes on this popular hiking trail.

Split-rail fences and more distinct pathways have been established, particularly nearest to the cliffs and the iconic cross at the top. Directional signage will also soon be installed throughout the trail network.

These upgrades are intended to make it easier to find your way around the mountain while also protecting the sensitive forest environment, especially on the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Chase Woods Nature Reserve land.

RELATED STORY: NEW SIGNS AND MORE AIM TO MAKE SENSE OF NORTH COWICHAN’S TRAILS

“This mountain is important on so many levels; recreationally, culturally and ecologically,” said Hillary Page, B.C.’s director of conservation for the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

“We are committed to supporting a balanced approach in managing the lands so that all of these values are respected and can flourish.”

The need for trail upgrades on Mount Tzouhalem was identified by the four organizations that own and manage the lands that the trails traverse.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada worked with the Municipality of North Cowichan, BC Parks and Providence Farm on this improvement project.

“The cross that so many of us know and love is located on the Chase Woods Nature Reserve,” said North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring.

“North Cowichan is proud to be a partner with all four nearby landowners in developing a single and coherent signage plan and protecting trail users and the environment.”

Mount Tzouhalem is used by tens of thousands of hikers and mountain bikers every year, with an estimated 80,000 visitors using the trails annually in 2017 and 2018.

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A growing number of trails, some planned and some created spontaneously by visitors, had created a maze of pathways that can be challenging to navigate.

Some trails led directly through sensitive habitats and were eroding and damaging native plants.

This was a growing concern for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, whose mandate is to steward and enhance the native wildlife and plant communities on its conservation lands.

The NCC hopes that visitors will respect the trail system by staying on designated trails and keeping dogs on leash, leaving sensitive forest areas unharmed.

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