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Saasak Hills Trail Planning & Design

2019-2020 | Gitwinksihlkw, BC

The Nisga’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw had a strong rationale for pursuing a grant to prepare a Trail Master Plan and Detailed Design for their Saasak Hills Trail and River Walk. An exceptional trail network connecting visitors to the village, a new proposed café, the lava beds, the Nass River, stunning views, and local Indigenous history would be a strong tourism asset for the community and a cornerstone of the Village’s Indigenous tourism industry.

But trail-based tourism competition is fierce, and success requires destinations to truly focus on the visitor and strengthen partnerships and cooperation with other local trail providers. Trails must also be meticulously planned, designed, constructed, and maintained to deliver exceptional, authentic, and memorable visitor experiences. When the Nisga’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw reached out to McElhanney for support in developing a Trail Master Plan and Detailed Design of the first phases of their project, we were eager to be part of the process.

McElhanney partnered with RC Strategies and completed community engagement, desktop review, market analysis, and site reconnaissance to develop a Trails Master Plan with an eight-phase strategy for trail development. In the span of three years, the first two phases of the project progressed from detailed design to construction management. Phase one of trail construction included eight kilometers of progressive downhill flow trails (green, blue, and black difficulty) and two climbing routes (green, blue difficulty). Phase two construction includes the four-kilometer Lava Bed/River Walk trail with extremely unique construction on the sacred Lava Beds of the Nisga’a people.

From obtaining permitting and approvals through various government agencies such as Nisga’a Lisms Government, to providing training on a customized operations and maintenance manual for the Gitwinksihlkw trail crew, this collaborative project demonstrated the commitment of the community to deliver an exceptional, authentic, and memorable visitor experience.

McElhanney provided:

  • First Nation community engagement, market analysis, and desktop/field review for Trail Master Plan
  • Trail Master Plan for 8 phases development
  • Detailed trail design and procurement for Phases 1 and 2
  • Structural engineering for viewing platform
  • Permitting and approvals for all aspects of construction
  • Construction review and administration for Phases 1 and 2
  • Operations and maintenance manual