Trail builders honored for contributions to eco-hiking

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Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) Three trail builders who have dedicated themselves to constructing eco-friendly hiking trails around Taiwan for decades, preserving traditional skills for the younger generation, were honored with an award in Taipei Sunday.

Lin Hsien-chao (林先朝), Fan Kuang-cheng (范光政), and Ripunu Abalriini were presented with the 2020 Best Trail Builder/Repairer Award by the Taiwan Thousand Miles Trail Association at an award ceremony at the Taipei Mayor’s Residence Art Salon.

The not-for-profit association said it launched the award in 2018 to promote trail building and related traditional building and repair skills, noting that trail builders are adapt at a wide range of construction techniques depending on the geological and soil conditions of different locations.

Abalriini, who uses slate and shale to build stone slab houses and trails, started to learn masonry from his father at the age of 10, according to the association.

“I have to pass down the knowledge and ability that God gave me to the next generation so that our culture of building stone slab houses and trails will not be forgotten,” he said in a video clip pre-recorded for the ceremony.

The 80-year-old Rukai indigenous masonry expert from Pingtung County was the only one of the three winners unable to attend the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Fan, a 78-year-old Hakka elder from Beipu Township in Hsinchu County, specializes in breaking stone apart with hammers and crowbars, the association said.

“Our techniques are now fading away because we are getting older,” Fan said. “The job is too hard, so youngsters cannot stand it as we did in the past, but I am willing to teach while I’m still able to.”

Lin, a 75-year-old Minnan elder from Jian Township in Hualien County, has devoted himself to sharing his experience of masonry with the next generation. In 2006, he started courses to teach the younger generation traditional masonry skills, the association said.

“Masonry is a heavy job that looks simple, but it is not easy to learn its main points without doing it in person,” Lin said. “Masonry is simple yet complicated work.”

To help preserve these traditional skills, the association said it is promoting a set of guidelines for trail builders and man-made trails, while government agencies such as the Hakka Affairs Council and local governments in New Taipei and Taipei are also paying more attention to the field.

The Soil and Water Conservation Bureau also started promoting man-made trails in villages this year, the association added.

(By interns Grace Hu, Meryl Kao, and Eden Wang)

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