Wells Gray Park should be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the people of Clearwater should develop the old roads between First and Third Canyons into world class hiking trails.
Those seemed to be two of the main messages delivered by Upper Clearwater naturalist Trevor Goward during an educational hike held Sunday afternoon, Oct. 7.
About 20 people took part in the hike, which was the third of about 20 events planned for Wells Gray World Heritage Year.
Wells Gray Park is unique in that it incorporates nearly the entire watershed of a major river, the Clearwater, Goward said.
It has an unusual volcanic history stretching back millions of years and includes several examples of volcanoes interacting with glacial ice.
There are more of the larger species of lichen in the park than anywhere else in the World, he said.
A major forest fire that occurred in 1926, as well as one that occurred in 1924 near Clearwater Lake shaped the ecology of the Upper Clearwater area.
The fires encouraged deer and moose, but had a devastating effect on mountain caribou.
Moose require young forests to provide browse and were unknown in this area before the fires. Their numbers peaked at about 2,500 but are now down to about 700 as the forest matures.
Caribou, on the other hand, require the lichens from old growth forests to survive, especially in winter. The increased numbers of moose and deer also brought in predators, particularly wolves.
Goward made his presentation while leading the group along the old roads to Wells Gray Park between First and Third canyons.
The old roads are the best hiking trails in this area and could be a world-class attraction, Goward said.
He suggested that the people of Clearwater should adopt them and develop their potential.
Unlike more modern highways, the old roads more or less follow former game trails, he said.
Wildlife moving through the forest tends to follow the path of least resistance and, over time, develop game trails that are the most energy efficient routes from place to place.
The first people into the Clearwater Valley followed those trails when they walked in, and their roads in turn followed their footsteps.
The next Wells Gray World Heritage Year even will be Pioneer School Days with Ellen Ferguson, Clara Ritcey and Hazel Wadlegger on Sunday, Oct. 21.