The Vancouver Island Trails Information Society (VITIS) is a non-profit society dedicated to providing accurate information to the public about trails and parks on Vancouver Island.
Originally, VITIS was formed as the Outdoor Club of Victoria Trails Information Society in response to a need to create a book about hiking trails on Vancouver Island - no such book was in available. As well, other hiking clubs on the Island had encouraged the OCV to take on such a project. OCV members, especially Dr. Jim Fiddess and Ted Fairhurst, had long dreamed of producing a book about the trails known and used by the club. Their dreams were realized in 1970 with the formation of a hard-working committee. The editor was to be Jane Waddell, ably assisted by Bill Burroughs, John Harris, Dave Birch and Jane Toms among others. There was hope for some provincial government funding, but the committee pressed on with their mission even when it became clear that no such funding would be available. The group incorporated as a non-profit society and produced its first book in December of 1972, almost 40 years ago, put together entirely by volunteers.
That very first volume, Hiking Trails: Victoria and Southern Vancouver Island, contained only 32 pages and 18 destinations, and had an initial print run of only 2000 copies and sold for $1. Hand-drawn maps and delightful sketches by Laurie Rossiter illustrated the text. Several of the original supporters of the project had promised to underwrite the printing costs, should there be funding difficulties, but by the time the invoice for printing was received from Morriss Printing, the book had hit Eaton's best-seller list and the printing costs were already recouped.
By 1975 it had been reprinted five times and already revised, expanded and retitled. Other successes were achieved; in 1973, Hiking Trails II: Southeastern Vancouver Island, and in 1973, Hiking Trails III: North Vancouver Island, including Strathcona Park, were published for the first time. The set of three guidebooks covering the Island was now complete.
In 1993, in an effort to better describe the scope of our work, and to eliminate long-standing confusion, the name of the Society was changed to the Vancouver Island Trails Information Society.
John W. E. Harris is the only founding member still with the Society, although Betty Burroughs continues in the place of her late husband, Bill. Sadly, Jane Toms, a founding member, suffered a stroke in August, 2000, and died the following month without having seen the finished eighth edition of our Hiking Trails II: South-Central Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. Jane Renaud (Waddell), the original editor and president of the Society, although not involved for years, still eagerly awaits the publication of each new edition and the changes it includes.
In keeping with its goal of providing accurate information, the Society regularly updates all three volumes. Thus, as of 2010, the books are in their thirteenth, ninth and tenth editions (Hiking Trails I, 2 and 3 respectively - note new arabic numerals along with new design layout in 2008). To make the information accessible to the public, the selling price of each volume is set as low as possible, just high enough to recoup the cost of its production, plus a narrow profit margin which is plowed back into the production of the next volume.
From time to time, the Society also makes donations toward worthy projects, such as the Trans-Canada Trail, the information kiosk at Strathcona Park, and the teaching shelter at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary. Most recently it set up bursaries for students in environmental studies and outdoor recreation at North Island College, Vancouver Island University and Camosun College, and a scholarship at the University of Victoria, thereby ensuring that the next generation will learn about the many beautiful hiking trails on Vancouver Island.