Every project needs its driver, someone to champion the work and spearhead its organization.
For dozens of recreational trails, lookouts and cabins in the Terrace area and across the northwest, that champion was Carl Johansen.
Recently retired from the forest service, Johansen worked for close to 22 years as the recreation officer for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.
He was behind many of the Terrace Mountain trails, including the Steinhoe and Flathead — upgrading and mapping them for public use.
He also was involved in building a handful of cabins such as the Larsen Ridge cabin, usually accessed by helicopter, the Mount Robinson Ridge cabin, and the refurbished fire lookout cabin on Thornhill Mountain.
“Everything around here is Carl,” said Bruce Martindale, prior TORCA executive member and trails contractor, listing the bridges at Red Sands and dozens of cabins and trails whose work was headed by the rec director.
“Larsen cabin… one of my favourite places in the world, that’s Carl… A lot of the favourite places in the world for a lot of the people around here, are there because Carl has made that happen,” Martindale emphasized.
He said that Johnansen was amazing to work with, really coming alongside of local recreation and historical groups to get things done.
“He was there to help us along,” said Martindale, adding that if a group was organized to accomplish a project, Johansen was eager to help them navigate government bureaucracy and get things moving.
“As long as he has a strong group to work with, he will make things happen for you,” said Martindale.
Often that task involved negotiating with different interest groups, such as cyclists, skiers and hikers, as well as governments, First Nations and even logging contractors, which Johansen also did very well.
Prior forest service manager Brian Downie, who is now a councillor of the City of Terrace, said the same, adding that Johansen’s personality was what made him a great recreation director.
“He’s one that really wants to accomplish things,” said Downie. “And the other part of his personality, is his ability to work with people, his ability to create these partnerships.”
Largely because of his coordination with people, Downie says Johansen organized a ton of projects, and was recognized across the province by forestry executives as someone who could get things done.
And yet Johansen doesn’t take credit for all the work accomplished. As he spoke about the projects, he was quick to point to the dozens of other groups and people involved in the projects.
“Most of the work got done by others. Other people did the heavy lifting in many ways,” he said.
Johansen retired in December and the new recreation officer for the northern region is Bryan Last, who spent the last 10 years working in BC Parks. Recreation Site and Trails manager Ben Heemskerk said he is optimistic they will be able to build on Johansen’s community work.
“Bryan has a wealth of experience and he is looking to work a bit more closely with community groups in building up some of those recreation amenities,” he said.