The Alberni Valley Chapter of the BCHBC was formed on the inspiration and leadership of Ann and Bob Collins of Arrowvale Farms. The Chapter has ranged in size each year from a few members to over 30 members.
The Alberni Valley lies at the head of the Alberni Inlet which opens into Barkley Sound and the West Coast of Vancouver Island about 40 km away. The valley is made up of the Somass River watershed which includes Sproat Lake, Great Central Lake, and several tributary rivers. To the east, the Beaufort Range and Mount Arrowsmith separate the valley from watersheds flowing into the Georgia Strait, which in some cases is less than 20 km away as the crow flies. To the west, just over 100 km away on Highway 4 and over Sutton Pass, lie Ucluelet and Tofino and the beaches of the west coast of Vancouver Island.
The Port Alberni area is best known for the fisheries resource in the river systems and Inlet; the superb forests and logging and milling industries. To a lesser degree, the farming industry in the valley has been important since the area was populated by Europeans in the mid 1850’s. Some large farms remain active. There are an increasing number of smaller 5 to 20-acre parcels of land with many horse owners and riders in the area.
The sheltered inlet and valley, rich in fish and seafood and with a temperate climate, has long been home to many indigenous people and this remains the case today.
There are many kilometres of beautiful trails in the valley for riding. The longest and best known trail is the Log Train Trail (LTT), approximately 21 km long and publicly owned. AV Chapter takes a lead role along with the local regional district in keeping this clear and safe for riding. Other trails on Crown lands in woodlots and the community forest offer great opportunity for expansion of the trail program in the future.
The biggest challenge we have with trails in the valley is the fact that about 90% of the forest land (non-urban) is owned by private forest landowners. (Part of an Esquimalt Nanaimo railroad grant in the early 1900’s). Gaining approval to use, develop, and maintain trails on these lands is difficult. Trails that do exist are being used, but the Chapter cannot advertise or encourage outside use of these trails without landowner consent.
The Chapter has also worked with the Regional District to revitalize and support maintenance and safety improvements on the outdoor Evergreen Park horse-riding arena in Beaver Creek. This arena is well used by equestrians of all ages and a variety of other equestrian organizations and non BCHBC public.
The AV Chapter is fortunate to have some excellent riding and camping facilities established and maintained by the BCHBC on the east side of Vancouver Island. Members of our Chapter use and enjoy those facilities frequently. Over the past years, many members enjoyed other BCHBC facilities located on the mainland, usually in conjunction with trips to Rendezvous.
For many years, AV Chapter members were a key component of the Beaufort Gang, who frequently staged mock robberies of the steam train as it transported visitors to MacLean’s Mill. On one occasion, they robbed the entire RCMP detachment, who were on the train for a social outing.
Another challenge we face is an aging group of members, not short of enthusiasm, but perhaps short of energy. We have a goal of recruiting younger equestrians to join and continue the good work of the Chapter.
In normal times, our Chapter meets at various locations on the evening of the first Tuesday of each month. Watch our Facebook page for updates. Please join us for a meeting or a trail ride if you are on Vancouver Island.