Horse Trail Capital of BC: Maple Ridge
Maple Ridge offers a unique network of horse trails that is protected under the Official Community Plan. This network encompasses over 100 km of local riding and hiking trails, as well as 50-60 km in nearby Golden Ears Provincial Park. It is thanks to a dedicated group of long-time equestrian volunteers, like Bill Archibald (pictured below) and David John Smith, that Maple Ridge is the Horse Trail Capital of BC.
While the HHA became formally registered as a non-profit society in 1981, the history of this group of equestrian volunteers goes back more than 20 years earlier. Trail building coordination between local equestrian clubs and the municipal government began in the 1960s; members of the Maple Ridge Riding and Driving Club (“Ridge Riders”, precursor to HHA) and the local chapter of BC Western Horsemen Association (BCWHA) worked together on trail projects throughout Maple Ridge and Golden Ears Provincial Park. In 1965, the District invited the Ridge Riders to create a special trail for the 1967 Canada Centennial Celebration.
However, the history of horse trails in Maple Ridge goes back even further than that — to the late 1800s! Read Bill Archibald’s article, below, for insight into how this fantastic and beautiful trail network is the legacy of the horse in Maple Ridge.
Why is Maple Ridge the Horse Trails Capital of BC?
By Bill Archibald
Maple Ridge has always been Home to Horses. Once the CPR came through in 1885, horses freighted goods and passengers from both the Haney and Hammond stations to the new homesteads over rough municipal ‘roads’. Remember the District was incorporated in 1874, so many trails had been already cut through the forested land.
Due to the abundance of trees and the relatively easy (downhill) access to the Fraser River and its mills, logging with horses became the mainstay of the local economy. Many miles of skid and haul ‘roads’ were built throughout the District opening up many new areas to homesteaders and their horses.
Even with the advent of logging railways reaching deep into what is now UBC Research Forest and Golden Ears Park, horses still were employed to skid the logs to the railside landings. In the 1930s, after the Great ALLCO fire, the Edge family used horses on what is now our Maple Ridge Trail to skid out shake bolts on their stone boats. And the Nelson brothers dragged logs from the Millionaire Creek area to their mill (at Mill Street).
All this trail-cutting, hauling and skidding left Maple Ridge a legacy of routes through the wilderness. In the 1920s, my Aunt, Evelyn Robinson, rode her horse every day from present 216th Street to teach in Albion. In the 1930s, Louise Poole rode the burnt hills of Silver Valley and in the 1950s, Les Robson rode into Garibaldi Park (now Golden Ears) from Webster’s Corners. All these rides were on old logging roads or abandoned trail grades.
The public was served by a number of livery stables. McClelland operated the Hitching Post (from where I rode in the 1940s) at the northeast corner of 232nd & 132nd. Ave. His rides were real adventures – we rode east to the Remuda Grounds (now Upper Maple Ridge Park and ballfield) and north on the Ski Hill Trail (now 236th & Schull Trail) then west over the North Alouette River on the bridge below Buffalo Falls. Bill and Ruth Shull eventually bought the property on the west of the Falls after selling their Garibaldi Ranch on the Kanaka at 110th. They escorted many rides on the old logging grades all the way to Raven Beach on Pitt Lake. Going over those open trestles was a bit scary but their horses knew where to step.
Mr. Heggie of Webster’s Corners operated a pack train and trail ride in the 1960s & 1970s to the lakes on top of Blue Mountain. He had many corporate clients and prominent executives enjoy the tough but scenic two-day outing. He used and maintained a route over the logging roads across the face of the mountain.
With such a legacy of trails to use and enjoy, the BC Western Horsemen Association local chapter took over much of the trail work in the 1960s re-opening many of the old routes to UBC Research Forest and Golden Ears Park. I became their ‘trail boss’ in ’64. The Maple Ridge Riding and Driving Club, aka Ridge Riders, also had a group of trail riders that I later joined.
The BCWHA had made a deal with Andy Hetherington of Golden Ears Park to use the inmates from Haney Correctional Institute (HCI) each Saturday for trail work in the Park. The Main Corral was already there so together they built the Mike Lake Trail and the Maple Ridge Trail (west to the park boundary to join the Edge Skid Trail that BCWHA had reconstructed). This re-routing now did away with the Ski Hill Trail and shortly after UBC took a 2000 acre chunk off the west of the Park right up to Mike Lake.
The Inmate-BCWHA/Ridge Riders team also built the Menzies Trail and cleared an old rail grade (now West Canyon Trail) all the way to the Lower Gold Creek Falls. They also built the Lower Falls Trail and we crossed Gold Creek just below the Falls. Another fun ride!
In 1965, the Ridge Riders were asked by the District to participate in the planning for the Canada Centennial in 1967. They informed us that we could apply for a Local Improvement Grant (LIP) and hire a trail crew. We did, got it and our project was the Centennial Trail (from the new arena downtown to the Main Corral in GE Park. As far as we knew, we were the first group to ever receive government funding for trail construction. The trail was built and completed in 1966. The District granted us permission to use any unoccupied municipal land and road allowances as well as road sides.
To celebrate our trail network, the Ridge Riders put on the Hundred Horse Ride to Gold Creek from the Skating Arena in May 1967. We invited 10 Fraser Valley riding clubs to send ten riders each. The Ridge Riders provided the escort and Buckerfields, the food. This ride made Maple Ridge the “Trail Riding Capital of BC” and it continued each year until 1976. Riders still recall those rides and the legacy of trails lives on.