Despite being closed permanently, the Jack Gregson Trail monicker will live on elsewhere in Kamloops as the municipality seeks to rename an existing pathway after the late entomologist and his wife.
The original trail, which connected the end of Lorne Street to Valleyview, was closed permanently on Nov. 9 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to make way for more track.
According to the company, the trail sat upon its right-of-way and was not part of the city’s official trail network.
Jeff Putnam, the City of Kamloops’ parks and civic facilities manager, said an announcement on what path will be renamed after the Gregsons is expected by the end of the year.
“There’s a few options that we’ve got,” Putnam said, noting the city wants to discuss those with the Gregson family and Kamloops Outdoor Club, which Jack Gregson founded in the 1930s.
He said the club reached out to the city about renaming a trail after the topic came up at the city’s most recent quarterly parks engagement advisory group meeting.
“It’s definitely gaining a lot of positive momentum,” Putnam said.
Putnam said the city doesn’t have that many multi-use pathways and trails named after people, which should make the process a bit easier than having to bump a specific existing trail name.
“A lot of them are generic, like Rivers Trail,” he said.
The Gregsons also have a butterfly garden named after them on McArthur Island.
Jack Gregson and wife Barbara (Bar) were longtime residents who raised five children in Kamloops.
The trail that bears Jack’s name was carved by the man himself along the 2.2 acres of riverfront property he purchased in 1946 for $600 from a local cattleman, according to a Kamloops Daily News article he wrote in 2005.
The route spans from the family’s former homes at 1594 and 1598 Lorne St. just east of downtown, upstream along the South Thompson River and through a narrow strip of land between the water and the railway tracks near Kelly Douglas Road in Valleyview.
Jack was known for planting various trees and flowers and maintaining the trail over the years until he passed away in 2006.
Bar died in 2011.
While they said it’s a shame to see the original trail be closed, the Gregsons’ children — John Gregson, Sandra (Sandy) Gregson-Meyer and Petrina Gregson — are happy the city will name a new route after both their parents.
John said his mother also played a large role maintaining the trail and properties.
“She raised five kids and did vegetable gardening and Dad did flower gardening. They were a unit,” John said, noting his father was also an avid painter and photographer — samples of which he still has in abundance.
Taking one last amble along the pathway
Before the closure, the Gregson siblings — John, Sandy and Petrina — each took one last stroll down the path, and memory lane, on walks organized by the Kamloops Outdoor Club on Nov. 1 and 2.
Along their treks, the Gregson children saw the familiar ponderosa pines and lilacs bushes their parents, Jack and Bar, planted years ago.
“He and mom would walk down the path with a bucket of water and water them every day,” John said of the lilac flowers.
Sandy, who now lives in Westsyde, recalled how focused her father was on keeping the trail looking nice as “it was his baby.”
She worried, however, when, in his 70s, he would attempt to balance a pail of water while riding a bicycle down to the lilacs.
“I was so scared that he would fall because I thought that he was so old. Of course, that isn’t now because I’m older than that myself,” she said.
Petrina, who lives in Clearwater and had not walked the trail in about a decade, remarked at how tall the trees had grown.
She said the trail was “lovely in its early stages because it was a little bit of wilderness in a cityscape.”
Marked by two wooden signs bearing its name, the Jack Gregson Trail has welcomed many joggers, cyclists and pedestrians over the years.
Eldest child John doesn’t know where the signs marking the trail came from, but he knows where one will be for the foreseeable future — at his home in Chase.
The 80-year-old took the graffiti-laden signs as a souvenir on his walk. The other is with the Kamloops Outdoor Club.
Sandy said gardening was a big part of her parents’ lives, adding that when they bought the property, it was laden with nothing but tumbleweeds.
“There wasn’t a rock or a tree on the place, so they planted every tree, every flower and hauled every rock,” Sandy said, noting she and her siblings would always bring back at least one stone after family car rides.
Born in Blackfalds, Alta., in 1910, Jack worked with the federal government as an entomologist, specializing in woodtick research. He moved to Kamloops for work and met his future wife, Bar Claxton — a nurse at the Tranquille sanitarium who was born 1915 in Kamloops — during an early meeting of the Kamloops Outdoor Club, in 1936.
“Three years later, after many hikes, we married and, having started our family of five, sought a piece of land that we could call our own,” he wrote in a 2005 Kamloops Daily News article.
The Gregson children also have a brother, Ian, and sister, Sally, who live in Australia and couldn’t make the trip.
The property was only three feet wide in the centre, so Jack built a home on the west end of a tumbleweed-covered slope.
John, who sold the two family homes in 2014, said his father dug out the basement of their first house by hand, noting they lived there until they could afford to build above.
John recalls their downtown home being on the “outskirts” of town, noting that whenever a steam engine would pass by, he and his siblings would run out of the house and put pennies on the tracks to be flattened by an oncoming locomotive.
The origins of the trail
Jack Gregson explained how his trail came to be in a 2005 Kamloops Daily News article, noting he and wife Bar kept busy in those early days with landscaping, digging a septic pit and winterizing a concrete pump house.
“I soon found myself hacking out a trail beneath the [Comazzetto] pig farm, extending it upstream through native cottonwood, hawthorn and chokecherry to a popular beach known in the early days as Hong Kong for its transients and parties, then eastwards to Westoby Road,” he wrote.
According to Kamloops Outdoor Club member Sue Cane, Jack started the trail in 1945.
At the time, the area was in the Municipality of Valleyview.
In 1973, the trail was enhanced by six local outdoors clubs, including Kamloops.
That same year, Valleyview amalgamated with Kamloops and, Jack wrote, confirmed was a proposed 20-foot wide, 99-year right-of-way to encompass the trail.
“Meanwhile, the CPR was moving towards the river to accommodate the No. 1 highway. Mr. Douglas Daws was in charge of Kamloops’ parks at this time and supported maintenance of the trail to the extent of naming it after me. With the advent of a terraced road alongside the new CPR right-of-way extending westward from my trail’s southern end to Lorne Street, it, too, became known as my trail, if only by name,” Jack wrote.
In the summer of 2002, Jack wrote, the City of Kamloops was about to pave the path for an extension of its planned Rivers Trail, but a legal injunction between the municipality, the CPR and a water-rights citizen appeared on a gate, stating the trail was located on private property and trespassing was not permitted.
The trail still saw use in the years that followed, but appeared to be neglected after Jack died in 2006 at the age of 96.
It later became a spot for trash, graffiti and homeless encampments.