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Efforts underway to save Dewdney Grind

A wide view of the Fraser Valley greets hikers who complete the Dewdney Grind. - Submitted photo
A wide view of the Fraser Valley greets hikers who complete the Dewdney Grind.
— image credit: Submitted photo

The Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) is taking a popular hiking trail in Dewdney under its wing to try to protect it from potential logging operations.

The Dewdney Grind, accessed off Norrish Creek Forest Service Road east of Mission, is part of a network of unofficial trails built on Crown land by local residents.

At the first summit, there is a memorial cabin dedicated to Ben von Hardenberg, a pilot who lost his life trying to put out a forest fire in 2003 when his helicopter crashed near Bonaparte Lake in B.C.’s interior. There is an unobstructed view of the valley from the peak of the mountain, about another 45 minutes from the cabin.

Because it is not a designated trail, logging companies are not required to respect the path and its alignment, according to a report by Christina Vugteveen, manager of parks for FVRD.

“For it to be a designated recreation site, the province has to designate it,” Vugteveen explained, noting the FVRD wants to work with the province. “They know it exists, but there are a lot of trails they want to do this with.”

The Dewdney trail and the cabin mean a lot to the von Hardenberg family, said Fred, Ben’s older brother.

“The trail was built for everybody,” explained Fred, who noted the man who initiated the construction of the trail two years after Ben’s accident likes to keep to himself, spending a lot of time in the woods.

Wulf is about 75 years old now, according to Fred. “There are four key people who did the work. Those guys hiked everything up there on their backs.”

There are two trails leading to the cabin.

The south route is steep and challenging, while the northern trek is more family-friendly and crosses a natural spring water source.

It was also Wulf’s idea to build a cabin at the first peak in honour of Ben, who grew up in Dewdney.

Fred helped haul material up the mountain for the cabin. Everything, including the stove and all the building components, were brought up by volunteers.

Inside the cabin, there are amenities for a tired traveller, such as tea, snacks, chairs and bedding.

There is also a photo of Ben, who was 33 when he died, and a short story about his life.

A guest book also lets hikers share their adventures and communicate with the family. Over the past 10 years, close to six books have been filled with messages by hundreds of people.

“People from Japan and Europe have signed it,” said Fred, noting the trail has never been advertised, and those who use it only know about it through friends.

“I don’t know how they know about it, but it’s astounding.”

The messages collected are kept in the family’s library. “It’s nice for the family to read. Sentimentally, it means a lot to us.

“(The logging threat) is very disheartening,” said Fred, who noted the north trail has already been cut through by a logging road.

He hikes the trail every week to maintain it and look after the cabin. When the area was targeted for logging a few years ago, he started a campaign to save the Grind. Since then, other efforts have been made, including a Save the Dewdney Grind Facebook page, which has more than 1,500 members.

“Logging could destroy the trail forever,” said Artur Gryz, creator of the page.

Gryz went up the trail for the first time almost three years ago and now hikes it at least once a month.

He has never met the von Hardenberg family, but he is interested in saving the trail because it is “a gem to the Fraser Valley.

“The Dewdney Grind is one of the places that is a home away from home for a lot of people,” said Gryz.

“For me, it’s a way to get away from reality and focus on the outdoors, and focus on the beauty we’ve been given.”

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