Selkirk College alumna Sarah Meunier’s passion for outdoor recreation and leadership in creating quality rides for the region’s mountain biking community has landed Castlegar at the top of a prestigious global list.
At the end of 2023, Trailforks released its top-10 rated mountain bike trails from across the planet. A high quality trail management system for outdoor enthusiasts in a variety of sports, the Trailforks app collected input from its users and the 4.4 kilometre mountain bike trail in the Merry Creek recreation area dubbed “Captain Kangaroo” was rated number-one.
“At first I was shocked because I didn’t know it was going to happen,” says Meunier, who is the executive director of the non-profit Castlegar Parks & Trails Society (CPTS). “But, it’s based on user ratings, so out of 600,000-plus trails in the world on Trailforks, Captain Kangaroo was chosen as the best. It is a substantial accomplishment, it’s legitimate and we are very proud.”
A graduate of the Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program, Meunier began volunteering with CPTS while still a student on the Castlegar Campus. After graduation in 2013, she started working seasonally as a maintenance crew lead and trail builder. Meunier has been the executive director of CPTS since 2020 in a part-time, year-round role.
The society is a charitable non-profit organization that builds and maintains environmentally sensitive, non-motorized, mountain biking and on-foot traversable trails. Working on projects like the Trans Canada Trail through the greater Castlegar area and the bike park in Millennium Park, CPTS has been actively building new mountain biking trails in the Merry Creek area.
The genesis of Captain Kangaroo started in 2018 when Meunier and legendary local trail builder Dave Sutton began scouting missions in the Merry Creek area. Once a line was chosen and volunteer David J. Hall helped secure funding to hire a crew specifically for trail construction, work started on what would become the 4.4 kilometre downhill trail and accompanying upward traverse. The intensive project was led by Meunier with trail crew members Evan Dux, Jason Carmichael, Jack Allen and Clarke Morris.
The effort has paid off with the Trailforks recognition that also includes top trails in locations from Whistler to Vermont and New Zealand to Czech Republic.
“Captain Kangaroo isn’t just a trail—it’s a rite of passage,” states the Trailforks website. “Its flawless flow and ridiculously smooth sections make it a trail masterpiece that showcases jaw-dropping alpine views along the way—that is, if you can even tear your eyes away from the trail.”
Quick to give credit to all the paid crew and volunteer team that helped make Captain Kangaroo a reality, Meunier says there was literally a labour of love element to the creation of the trail. Meunier and Sutton began a romantic relationship seven years ago, spending “date outings” in area forests working on trails and enjoying the outdoors.
“It’s been pretty cool to work with Dave,” says Meunier, who is a heli-ski guide and volunteer ski patrol during the winter months. “He is a very talented mountain biker who started building trails at a very young age. He saw that Nelson and Rossland had all these trails, so he took it upon himself to start building more trails in Castlegar. His vision and initial leadership really helped build the mountain biking scene in Castlegar. It took us a long time to just have enough quality to be even be considered a mountain biking destination.”
Building and maintaining trail systems requires a massive amount of work behind the scenes. In her role as executive director, Meunier carries out a variety of tasks from GPS mapping and grant writing to negotiations with private land owners and government to ecosystem knowledge and surveying. For this, Meunier is grateful for the education she received in the two-year Recreation, Fish & Wildlife Program.
“I have always enjoyed school, as long as I am interested in the topic,” says Meunier, who is originally from Quebec and first came west for snowboarding in the Rockies. “The program was amazing with great instructors and practical skills in the field. It was more than absorbing information, getting to practice the skills was very valuable and the way I prefer to learn.”
Now that Meunier has helped land Captain Kangaroo atop the world, she is both excited and cautious about the future. With responsible land stewardship serving as a foundation, she will guide CPTS enthusiastically into its next chapter.
“What we lack in quantity compared to some other locations in our region, we definitely have in quality,” she says. “We have some very passionate and talented people in our community that consistently show up to help develop and maintain these trails. I’m pleased that more people will get to discover Castlegar and all the amazing recreation that is available here.”