Seven 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-sntsk'il'ntən 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.
FoBM Founder Donates Generous Gift to Park
Ian Pooley, the founder of Friends of Black Mountain, and his wife, Carolyn MacHardy, have created an endowment fund whose purpose is to protect the environmental health of the Black Mountain - sntsk’il’ntәn Regional Park.
“Black Mountain is a fundamental part of the experience of the central Okanagan landscape — something that is shared by everyone, especially those who grew up here, as I did,” Ian says. “For my family, the connection with the mountain goes back to my grandmother, who became a good friend of Colin Pyman, a Black Mountain rancher, sometime before the First World War.”
Carolyn says her late father’s interest in grassland ecosystems inspired the couple’s gift. Dr. Fenton MacHardy, a former University of Alberta professor of agricultural engineering who passed away in January, just shy of his 100th birthday, had some years ago established a fund for graduate students working on grassland preservation in southern Saskatchewan.
“And it made me wonder, as I retired, what we could do to similarly care for something that meant a lot to us,” Carolyn recalls. “The idea sparked from there.”
Preserving the Park
The MacHardy-Pooley Family Fund is being established with the primary aim of supporting the “environmental health of Black Mountain - sntsk’il’ntәn Regional Park, park acquisition, interpretation, fencing and other stewardship or habitat-monitoring work,” according to the terms of the endowment.
“This fund will enable us to pursue a number of vital projects aimed at safeguarding the park’s fragile ecosystem,” said Jean-Claude Gavrel, who took over the FoBM presidency last year after Ian retired.
Those projects include building and repairing fences to keep livestock off the environmentally sensitive grasslands; erecting interpretive signage to promote the responsible and respectful use of the park; and monitoring the health and habitats of important plant and animal species. Funds could also be used to create additional nature trails, or to build interpretive viewing platforms.
“We are so delighted by Ian and Carolyn’s generosity,” Jean-Claude said, noting the gift caps years of selfless engagement by the couple in the park’s environmental health.
Ian founded the Friends of Black Mountain in 2015 and led efforts to raise $40,000 in donations from the local community to support the group’s work. Under his leadership, 220 students and numerous other volunteers poured more than 1,500 hours of sweat equity into the construction of some four kilometres of trails. For Carolyn, it was imperative that the trails, covered in packed crusher chips, be made as accessible as possible to park visitors of varying levels of physical ability.
The MacHardy-Pooley Family Fund is being set up and managed by the Central Okanagan Foundation (COF), which together philanthropic gifts to create larger endowment funds. The investment income from such funds can then be paid out as grants to charitable organizations in the region.
You can contribute to the fund by contacting the COF and specifying that you want your donation to be applied to the MacHardy-Pooley Family Fund.
The annual proceeds of the fund will be directed to the Central Okanagan Land Trust (COLT), whose mission is to protect land for wildlife and parks so that biodiversity and natural features are preserved for future generations.
Friends of Black Mountain, COLT and the Regional District of Central Okanagan, which manages the park, will jointly determine how the proceeds of the MacHardy-Pooley Family Fund will be disbursed each year. As a registered charity, Friends of Black Mountain also accepts donations.
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.