Vancouver Island has always inspired hard work and dedicated people. The keen people that founded the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association (VISTA) are just the latest in a history of travelers that set off to explore the island that they appreciate so much.
Returning having seen an unparalleled opportunity, they set themselves a bold challenge: to plan and implement the Spine Trail along the full length of the island, engaging people along the way. This is rugged land, some of the best wilderness the island has to offer. As with those who set off before them, VISTA faces hard work to achieve their goal. Fortunately, they will draw upon an island community no stranger to pulling together.
Ken Milbrath (President)
Ken Milbrath graduated from UVic with a B.Sc. Geography in 1975, then completed his MBA at Dalhousie in 1978. A varied career includes a commercial lender for a division of Citicorp, and later for a Calgary based real estate lender, teaching Finance and Marketing at UVic and Camosun College, managing the Businesss and Industry Development Centre at UVic,, and working with the Province managing the 87 Business Information Centres. He’s also had the entrepreneurial bug since collecting pop bottles as a kid. Ken’s last business, KR Data Communications Inc. was the first commercial Internet Service Provider focused on commercial email for Victoria professionals. He also started a landscaping business from the side of his desk, a calling his son Dan has taken up with Costa Verde Contracting Ltd. He’s a Paul Harris Fellowship member of Harbourside Rotary Club since 1987.
At UVic, Ken and Brenda met at the Outdoors Club and have been married since 1975, with 4 children, all successful entrepreneurs in their own right. He became President of the 300 member UVODC , many of whom came from all over Vancouver Island. Consequently he’s extensively hiked and camped our gorgeous Island. “ Six of us were the first to walk the West Coast Trail in Winter (circa 1972), using 300 feet of climbing rope and an inflatable canoe. We spent New Years at Tsusiat Falls.“ He was also involved with environmental causes such as stopping the widening of Highway 1 through Goldstream Park to protect the salmon run. “It still makes me chuckle when I hear about the bottleneck in that canyon”. Ken’s also responsible for creating the Pemberton/Centennial Trail, a community building initiative with an urban route linking Victoria’s Inner Harbour with South Oak Bay. The Oak Bay side was completed in 2006. Victoria Council has adopted the trail but waiting for action.
Gil Parker (Past President)
Gil Parker, Founder and President of the Vancouver Island “Spine” Trail, is a life-long hiker and climber, and a Life member of the Alpine Club of Canada that awarded him their Distinguished Service Award. After climbing in many countries over decades, he turned to long-distance hiking, completing most of the 4500 km Pacific Crest Trail.
A structural engineer with Dominion Bridge and Willis, Cunliffe and Tait (later Delcan), Gil designed bridges and buildings, winning the Civil Engineering Prize of the Consulting Engineers of Canada for a railway overpass. He created a solar business, Ark Solar Products, and consulted on solar projects in India, United Arab Republic and Canada. He ran a trading firm, specializing in consultation and equipment sales in the newly-opened USSR, and later, Russia.
As a writer, Gil published many articles in National magazines and newspapers, then turned to writing books. He wrote four books, most with an outdoor theme, and edited two; one is a trail guide for northern Vancouver Island. With separate degrees in Engineering, Writing and Management, Gil has been active in community and international affairs, holding a Fellowship from the Rotary Club, and an Honorary Citizenship from Victoria City.
Bill Feyrer (Vice President/Treasurer)
Alberta native, graduated as an engineer from the University of Alberta, and moved to Victoria in 1971. I managed Harjim Industrial Services and then worked for Nicholson Manufacturing as Canadian Sales Manager until I retired in 2003. I am a member of the Victoria-Harbourside Rotary Club where I am a Past President and currently active in International Humanitarian Service work.
I have enjoyed backcountry hiking for many years since I climbed the Bugaboos in the 60’s and then took a climbing course at the Y in the early ‘70s where I met Gil Parker. In the years following, we have done a number of trips together on the Island and the Rockies that usually include Peter Berrang. I have also been with Gil to Patagonia (Chile/Argentina), to the Caucuses in Georgia and once, did a weeklong hike in the Salzkammergut of Austria by myself.
My favorite statement is: “I am not lost; I am just not where I want to be.”
Andy Ogle (Secretary)
So far, my favourite part of Vancouver Island is Mt. Albert Edward. I’ve been up it twice — once in summer with Gil Parker, Bill Freyer and Peter Berrang and once in early spring on skis on an ACC trip led by our former president Andrew Pape Salmon. I say so far, because clearly there is so much to explore and in the five years since moving here from Edmonton, I’ve only had a taste. That’s one of the reasons I am involved with VISTA because it’s all about linking great outdoor activities from one end of the Island to the other.
I moved to Victoria in 2009 after retiring from a career in daily newspaper journalism — 10 years at the Lethbridge Herald in southern Alberta and more than 25 years at the Edmonton Journal. I’m a runner, enthusiastic hiker, cross-country and back-country skier and am keen to help make more of the VI Spine trail a reality.
Terence Lewis (Director, Operations)
Terry became a Director of VISTA in 2014 after acting as an informal representative in the Comox Valley for a couple of years. In the last ten years, Terry has been building trails on the slopes above the Comox Valley for both mountain bikers and hikers. Indeed, mountain biking has become a passion of sorts in recent years, replacing trail running to take it easier on his aging joints (now 69). Terry has hiked and backpacked around the Province since the 1960’s. The Stein valley was a particular interest in the 70’s – exploring and writing of the valley prior to its establishment as a wilderness park.
In his working life, Terry was an independent consultant for over 40 years, dba ‘Consulting in Soils and Land Use’. This followed his education in forestry and soil science at UBC. As a consultant, Terry worked on projects in forestry, agriculture, transportation and regional planning, and more recently with utilities including a ‘wind farm’. In the 70’s, he assisted the BC Land Commission during the establishment of Agriculture Land Reserves throughout B.C. In the 90’s, Terry served as a member of the Scientific Panel for Sustainable Forest Practices in Clayoquot Sound, which brought major changes to forest management in coastal B.C. Terry is now mostly retired, but remains involved in the implementation of Ecosystem-based Management in the so-called ‘Great Bear Rain Forest’ of central and north coast B.C.
Terry believes the Spine Trail will become a great way for both residents and visitors to learn about and appreciate the natural, cultural and historical diversity of the jewel that we know as Vancouver Island. As a Director of VISTA, his focus is on operations – the planning and building of the Trail.
Photo credit: Dave Silver Photography
Ross Collicutt (Director, Communications)
Life started in Saskatchewan for Ross but very early my parents made the smart decision to move to the left coast. He’s not been able to get far from the mountains and the ocean since. Team sports had been a big part of his life since Ross was young but not until the past 10 years has outdoor adventure been a focus.
A degree in computing science from Vancouver Island University and traveling to Australia and New Zealand afterwards got Ross interested in the intersection of technology and the outdoors.
Ross splits his time between the latest technology and making software for the City of Nanaimo and running, biking, kayaking and hiking outside. Stories, photos and maps of his latest adventures usually end up as weekly articles at PureOutside.com.
Peter Berrang (Director, Fundraising)
Peter is also still active in various outdoor sports such as kite boarding and uni-cycling.
Peter is currently retired, but remains active on various corporate boards such as Carmanah Technologies Inc., Ocean Rodeo Sports Inc., and the various Axys Group of Companies. In past years, he also served as a director on various volunteer boards in the community, including the YM-YWCA of Victoria and Choices Adoption Society.
In past years, Peter, who has a science background, co-founded and managed various high technology companies in B.C. He holds more than 20 patents in various areas of technology such as fibre optics, medical devices, battery technology and some sports products.
Liz Bicknell is a retired Public Servant. Liz retired from the BC Public Service in 2015 where she served at the senior level, in public engagement, community outreach and strategic planning positions. Previously, Liz served in a diplomatic role with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Africa and worked in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya from 1973 – 1983. Liz is the President of the Outdoor Club of Victoria, a club founded in 1942 and a strong supporter of VISTA. Liz sits on the Board of Governors at Royal Roads University and she also volunteers with the Crime Prevention Unit for the Victoria Police Department. Liz is passionate about the outdoors and ensuring that future generations have the same access to trails that we enjoy today.
Steve is a retired law trade worker who was born and raised in Duncan. He attended the University of Victoria and the University of Alberta. In the course of his education and employment he has lived in Duncan, Victoria, Campbell River and for the last 40 years in Port Alberni. His father was an ardent outdoorsman and in his later years a dedicated trail builder. As a result of his influence, a supportive wife, two large and very persuasive dogs, and a long extinct passion for distance running, Steve has spent a large part of his life messing about on Vancouver Island trails and mountains. In recent years, he has been working with Harold Carlson and the rest of the Alberni Trail Crew in building and maintaining trails in the Alberni Valley
Caroline Williams (Volunteer Project Coordinator)
Caroline Williams is a retired petroleum geologist with a passion for the equestrian sports of distance riding and carriage driving. She moved to the Comox Valley in 2014 with her husband and various four footed friends, and is keenly interested in seeing public trails open for recreational users, in particular equestrians. Her work with the British Columbia Competitive Trail Riding Association as Public Relations brought her into contact with VISTA.
She has served on many not-for-profit clubs boards in the past in varying roles. These include the Cochrane and District Ag Society, Cochrane Support for Seniors, Big Hill Creek Estates Community Association, Trail Riding Alberta Conference and the Canadian Association of Long Distance Riders.