Five years of caring and sharing
Friends of Black Mountain was formed in 2015 by Ian Pooley, a visionary with equal passion for local history and the great outdoors. In its first five years in operation as one of the regional district's dozen "Friends of" groups, FoBM can boast of many important achievements, all centred on the protection and promotion of the Black Mountain Regional Park.
I founded Friends of Black Mountain in 2015 because there was a need for a volunteer group to get involved in advocating and assisting with the new Black Mountain/Sntsk’il’nten Regional Park. To me, Black Mountain is one of the Central Okanagan’s iconic landmarks; as well, it represents a last chance to conserve a significant block of Okanagan grassland, part of our Okanagan heritage that is under attack from the pressures of urban expansion.
-- Ian Pooley, FoBM Founder
Growing network of trails
FoBM raised funds and rallied volunteers - most of them students from area middle and secondary schools - to build more than four kilometres of packed-gravel recreational trails. The aim of the trails, designed for maximum accessibility, is to allow people to enjoy the park's natural wonders and superb vistas while keeping them off the fragile grassland.
The first trail, some 2.1 km in length, leads to the ecologically delicate Ephemeral Ponds. A second slightly longer one connects the Swainson Road park entrance to the Tower Ranch Municipal Park, and has now been named the Coyote Trail. The eastern half of the Ephemeral Pond Trail and the entire Coyote Trail are restricted to people on foot or on bicycles.
FoBM raised about $40,000 over three years from corporate donors to protect the ephemeral ponds, purchase crusher chips for the trails and to bus some 220 student volunteers to the trail-building site. Including FoBM volunteers, some 1,500 hours of work were donated to the project over two summers. Check out our project video on the Archives Page!
Since then, RDCO has staked out a third trail for hikers and bikers only. It's called the Hoodoo Trail and has a natural, rather than crushed gravel, surface. Horseback riders are permitted on the service road from the Swainson Road park entrance, which becomes the Upper Access Trail. They are also allowed to ride on the Grassland and Ridge trails.
Leadership and learning
FoBM has undertaken several initiatives to increase understanding of the park's delicate ecosystems. One of these is our excellent bluebird monitoring program, which is described in detail elsewhere on this site.
Other vitally important work involves monitoring the water levels, plant species and animal residents of the ephemeral ponds - special little bodies of water nestled in the grassland that dry up every summer but fill up again in spring. In response to our dedication to safeguarding the health of these ponds, the RDCO agreed to enclose them with protective fencing.
Over the years, we've also headed up numerous hikes for interested members of the public. These interpretive hikes started at different access points and led people to wonderful vistas. While the Covid-19 pandemic put a temporary halt to this activity, we plan to resume our hiking program as soon as it is safe to do so.
Looking back over the past five years, we can see other encouraging signs of progress. Vandalism of fences and gates has declined and we see fewer off-road vehicles in the park. We're also pleased that fewer cattle have found their way into the park from neighbouring ranches. Horseback riding is now restricted to designated trails, which generally excludes those built by us and our volunteers. We will continue to urge hikers, dog walkers and their pets to remain on the trails and to remove all waste.