On Oct 24, 2021, members of the Chilliwack Outdoor Club, Recreation Sites and Trails, Trails BC, Backcountry Horsemen and friends and family met at Pierce Creek up the Chilliwack Lake Rd along the TransCanada Trail (TCT). The event was a naming ceremony of the aluminum bridge constructed last year with volunteers and donors including the City of Abbotsford that donated the 50 foot aluminium gangway, Matcon Civil Constructors (delivery and materials) and Helmer Contracting (assembly).
The bridge has been named after the man who has been a tireless champion of the TransCanada Trail for the past 25 years: Léon Lebrun. Honouring Lebrun is appropriate because much of his work as a trail advocate, trail builder and maintainer has been in the Chilliwack valley. When he heard about the bridge opening event his first thought was to make plans to arrive early so that he could install replacement signage in the surrounding area!
How did he get so involved in the TCT? After picking up a brochure about a national trail network he contacted someone at Trails BC (the society charged with developing the BC section of the TCT and said he was interested in biking the trail. The response he got was something like, “That’s a great idea, but you will first have to build it.” So he began volunteering, became committed to the project and soon became an important player in the endeavour, both provincially and nationally.
Some of his accomplishments:
• became involved with the TCT project in the mid 1990s after retiring as a principal
• worked with Trails BC and eventually became President for several years
• With his administrative background and enthusiasm for the project he was soon deeply involved and became an important part of the endeavour
• Activities have included: arranging for funding from Trans Canada Trails Foundation and other local sources, engaging volunteers and organizing work parties, inspiring others to donate their time and services, acquiring and maintaining tools and supplies, planned opening ceremonies for the TCT, mapping and registering the trails with TCT and Rec Sites and Trails.
• Since 1996 has spent thousands of hours volunteering on behalf of the non-motorized trail users community and notably on the TCT in the Chilliwack, Coquihalla Valley and Lower Mainland; estimates are he has travelled more than 200,000 kms with his only compensation the cost of fuel. He wore out his first vehicle and his second is now more than 300,000 km on the odometer.
• Léon has also received the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work on behalf of trail users, not only for the TCT, but for all non-motorized users: equestrians, bikers, hikers.
…and he’s not slowing down!
• At 82 he still organizes and participates in about 15 annual inspection and maintenance work party days for the 70 – odd km of trails in the Chilliwack, Silver Hope and Coquihalla Valleys and in the Maple Ridge-Mission area
• he is still highly involved with the TCT and various other trail projects. In addition to the ongoing trail maintenance work, examples of his other recent and/or current activities are:
• attending as TBC’s representative, monthly meetings of the Chilliwack Recreational Advisory Group (CRAG),
• working with Municipalities and Indigenous groups on a project to try and create a trail/pathway from Tsawwassen to N. Vancouver
• organizing and leading “Meet Up” biking trips of 50 to 100 km, and
• advocating for provision of safe cycling paths in the planning of transportation infrastructure.
Leon’s work ethic is well known: he is renowned for taking a short lunch break and getting everyone back to work because “more than ten minutes is a waste of time”, chuckles Léon. He also often says, “A day working on the trails is like having a holiday”.
If you would like to learn more about the Trans Canada Trail visit trailsbc.ca which provides maps and descriptions of the part of the trail and information on the surrounding areas.