The war for the woods continues to throw off sparks, with environmentalists and mountain biking proponents squaring off over new guidelines that lay the groundwork for how the sport can take place in Capital Regional District parks.
The CRD regional parks mountain biking guidelines, along with a list of short-term actions designed to move the process ahead, were approved by the CRD parks committee on Wednesday (April 28), with the proviso that they be evaluated in the context of the broader parks strategic planning process this fall.
The committee meeting opened with presentations from upwards of 30 people, ranging from members of the mountain bike community itself to environmental advocates and local residents concerned with current and future use and stewardship of protected park lands.
Director Ben Isitt, whose amended motion added the layer of further evaluation of the guidelines, spoke to the contrasting and passionate viewpoints on the issue, both spoken and in dozens of emails.
“This is a (solution) that won’t satisfy everyone,” he said, noting the issue had heavy political implications. “We could try to count emails or count votes, but this is an issue where compromise is needed.”
Mountain biking proponents’ complaints about the guidelines ran the gamut. Some said they drew little advice from the mountain biking advisory committee’s detailed 72-page report, and did more to limit opportunities than provide a sustainable way forward. Others said the region has too few trails to meet current demand, and demolishing existing trails that don’t meet the CRD’s standard is an inefficient use of resources.
Rose Stanton, a Highlands councillor who lives within walking distance of Mount Work Regional Park, home to the largest developed mountain biking network in the region, said she has noticed more illegal trails being built in recent months.
“The concept of ‘take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints’ seems to mean nothing to this community,” she said. “I see nothing in the plan that says having more authorized trails won’t lead to more unauthorized trails.”
While Larisa Hutcheson, general manager of parks and environmental services, stated the guidelines are part of working to build a positive relationship with the mountain biking community, comments about the lack of trails in the region leading to illegal trail building in parks drew the ire of at least one director.
View Royal Mayor David Screech said he was “overwhelmed that somehow people could (use that argument to) justify unauthorized destruction in our parks.” Such attitudes put the mountain bikers’ negotiations with the CRD at a loss, he added.
Screech noted that the struggle between recreational use of CRD parks and environmental concerns has been going on for years and called the guidelines “a logical progression of something that was really dumped in staff’s lap.”
The South Island Mountain Biking Society (SIMBS) has an licence agreement with the CRD to maintain trails in the Hartland area of Mount Work Regional Park. The agreement also requires the group to include any proposed building in an annual trail plan for the CRD.
The guidelines, mountain biking advisory committee report and short-term actions list can be accessed online at bit.ly/3vHRmJZ in various appendices.
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