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2020 Annual Report Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail

"In our second year, and in a year like no other, Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail (FORT) continued building our role to support owner jurisdictions in making the trail the best it can be. Our main focus was work with the Regional District of North Okanagan to start development of the northern gateway at Kilometre Zero. FORT's volunteer program has grown as trail supporters have come forward to be the 'eyes, ears, hands and heart' of the trail. While our Trail Ambassadors focus on trail users, a new group of volunteers, Trail Stewards, will focus on caring for the trail environment. Although fundraising activities were curtailed by Covid, we still managed to generate close to $75,000 for the trail, and contributed hundreds of volunteer hours. We look forward to future growth of the FORT programs and relationships with all jurisdictions."

Toby Frisk, Chair, Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail

Kilometre Zero Phase 1

Feature Project for Fundraising and Trail Improvement

  • First public capital fundraising since the ORTI trail fundraising campaign.
  • Phase 1 (Natural Landscaping) completed; about 1000m2 of high standard restoration guided by a Registered Professional Biologist; 500 plants (23 species) plus native grassland seed mixture; design and installation of a temporary, re-usable, gravity irrigation system.
  • Read more about the Km 0 project.

Volunteers On the Trail

Trail Ambassadors and Trail Stewards

Covid prevented Trail Ambassadors (TA's) from active duty until August 15, but from August 15 to the end of October, over 200 TA hrs were logged. Covid protocols were established and volunteers attended TA training sessions in order to get back on the trail.

Meeting and Greeting - Providing Direction - Modelling Etiquette - Watching, Listening and Reporting - Pulling Weeds - Encouraging Donations - Managing Projects - Celebrating
  • 3 Zoom training sessions taken by all new and returning TA's.
  • 42 TA's = 60% increase in number of TAs on the trail over last year.
  • TA feedback indicates need for modelling and tools to promote good trail etiquette
  • Two stations with new tents were on the trail on Oct. 31 and garnered much interest in FORT volunteer opportunities.
  • New volunteer category, Trail Stewards, emerged this year with many volunteers interested in caring for the trail environment, in particular, helping to manage invasive weeds.
  • Next Steps: training Trail Stewards for weed identification and manual treatment, developing tools to promote trail etiquette and safety, updating TA training materials.

Volunteer Management

  • Sourced and customized "My Impact" online volunteer management program to efficiently manage and track volunteer activities.
  • 47 total volunteers - added 27 this year.
  • 8 board members - 1 and 2 year terms.
  • 42 Trail Ambassadors.
  • 19 Trail Stewards.
  • Project Volunteer Agreement put in place for Km 0.
  • July 12 - Dec 15 - 1,400+ volunteer hours logged.
  • Tents, flags and vests purchased to provide identity.
"The amount of work and sweat (and love) that has been put into this trail by FORT is absolutely incredible! You guys have done wonderful work and I can’t believe the energy that’s still going to this project!"

Catherine Lord, Ribbons of Green Trails Society, Vernon

Our Values

The values of Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail are aligned with this treasured community amenity. The user experience is key, but also important is protecting and restoring natural areas along the trail, telling the stories that enrich the trail experience, and engaging trail supporters.

Most of FORT Directors have been involved with the trail since before the trail was built. We know the trail managers, the users, the audience, the stakeholders, the contractors and the trail environment.

Our volunteers contributed towards planning, guidance, and donor relations for the three interpretive sites opened this year. These sites demonstrate the added value of trailside improvements, and the potential for donors to leave a valuable legacy.

Our work will support strengthening the ORT brand including the welcoming experience, sustainability practices, protecting the natural environment, celebrating the rich cultural history, respecting the Syilx People's place in their traditional territory, and keeping our communities engaged with this treasured corridor.

Communications

In keeping with the spirt of a cohesive and seamless user experience and supporting the ORT brand, trail public communications are provided through a collaborative effort between managing jurisdictions and FORT. This has been a big year for launching a new website, communicating Covid safety, FORT's first fundraising campaign and a tourism marketing campaign. FORT respects the role of regular and transparent communications, and this includes not only trail users, but also partners and donors.

Public Communications

The potential for ORT communications platforms to reach a large and broad audience creates great value for trip planning, trail management and inspiration.

A future goal will be to collaborate with managing jurisdictions to expand the interpretive experience and stories of the trail, and to create tools that encourage a safe, respectful user experience.

Internal Communications

Agreements and relationships were built this year to set the stage for future activities:

  • FORT/RDNO Project Volunteer Agreement (allowing FORT to direct hire for specific site work).
  • ORTC/FORT Agreements with Community Foundation of North Okanagan and Central Okanagan Foundation.

A goal is for more regular communications between ORTC and FORT, and agreements with each municipality. Proactive dialogue on projects, priorities and grant opportunities will help to build greater synergies for the future.

Financials

FORT manages financials in two separate streams – Trail Programs (FORT operations like Trail Ambassadors, Trail Stewards and Fundraising) and Capital Projects (trail improvement projects determined jointly with ORTC) .

Trail Programs

  • The 2020 planned budget for trail programs totalled over $18,000, and we were grateful to receive $15,000 from ORTC. Expenditures were under budget at $10,000. Next year's budget revenue will be similar, assuming limited opportunity for revenue generation from events and markets. Expenditures will increase somewhat due to the expansion of our Trail Steward program.

Capital Projects

  • Km 0 was the focus of FORT's fundraising efforts and trail improvement this year. With the Project Volunteer Agreement in place, a PO system tracked all costs for the project. Revenue came from Grants and public donations. The actual cash outlay for Phase 1 of Km 0 totalled approximately $50,000, however this amount does not reflect the various in kind services and materials nor the numerous volunteer hours contributed to complete this project.
  • In total $36,000 was generated from the public by donations through our Community Foundation partners, the collaboration of 3 Rotary clubs and the Filmed by Bike Event. These funds are used exclusively for enhancements and improvements to the Trail. Funds not expended in fiscal 2020 for Phase 1 of Km 0 will be used for Trail projects in 2021.

Next Steps

  • Continue to pursue grants in cooperation with the municipalities.
  • Continue to pursue Charitable Status for FORT.
  • Investigate opportunities for low key sponsorship that could create funding opportunities while respecting ORTC policy and approach.

Meet our Directors

From top left: Michelle Jefferson, Stewardship Lead; Dev Fraser, Project Management Lead; Debbie Clarke, Communications Lead; Laurie Postill, Fundraising Lead; Toby Frisk, Chair; Phyllis Turner, Trail Ambassador Lead; Betty Beck, Volunteer Management Lead; Anna Dawyd, Secretary/Treasurer

Thank you

FORT thanks managing jurisdictions for collaboration and support this year. We are grateful for partnership with the Community Foundation of North Okanagan and Central Okanagan Foundation for receiving and holding donations for rail trail capital campaigns.

Thank you to the community groups and businesses that supported FORT operations or capital fundraising campaigns this year, all described in the linked financial statements. Thank you to Jay Hack, Davidson Pringle for legal advice.