Local trails maintained by the Castlegar Parks and Trails Society (CPTS) have been damaged this spring by dirt bike operators who are ignoring the fact that the trails are off limits to motorized users.
Doug Clark, past president of the CPTS, reports that the issue is affecting most of their trails.
“Not only are they turning up the trails, they are actually going off the trail — cutting corners and ripping up undisturbed ground,” he explained.
The problem has occurred in previous years, but this year it has intensified.
River trails along the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers have been especially hard hit as well as the old Merry Creek Trail. At Dove Hill, the switch back trail has been completely ignored and a new swath straight up the hill has been used.
The trails are designed for recreation, for hiking and in some cases mountain biking — but not motorized uses. Signs have been posted warning that motorized use is not allowed, but CPTS has even found that some of their signs have been ripped right out of the ground, one tossed over the river bank.
Another problem with disturbing the ground, especially with this wet spring, is erosion.
“They are going off the trail, up a hill and that collects waterflow which causes erosion and slides and big ruts,” explained Clark. There have been several bad slides on trails this spring.
“People go on the trails because it is quiet — a nice contemplative walk in a peaceful environment,” said Clark, but the dirt bike noise is disrupting that peace.
“The additional thing that is bad about it is that we have gotten permission from the landowners based on the trails being non-motorized,” said Clark. “The landowners don’t want the noise and damage on their land — we don’t own the trails, we just use them through the kindness of the landowner, as long as we maintain them.”
CPTS is a volunteer group, and repairing the damage done to the trails is taking up a lot of volunteer hours and hindering the work they can do expanding and improving trails.
“We are trying to educate them [the dirt bike operators] as to why they shouldn’t be there,” added Clark. “There are lots of other options for them … It is causing damage, it is annoying people.”
Clark encourages those using the trails to use the sanctioned trails for motorized use that the West Kootenay Recreational Dirt Bike & ATV Society is developing on Crown land in the Blewitt area that they have tenure on.
“We encourage people to be responsible in their use of vehicles,” concluded Clark.