LETTER: BTRA clearing the air around trail building

Editor’s note: the following is a public statement from the Bowen Trail Riders Association president. 

Dear Islanders:

I’m sure that some of you may be aware that there is a growing concern within the Bowen community with regards to trail use on Mount Gardner.

Unfortunately there has been a lot of misinformation going around regarding Bowen Trail Riders Association (BTRA)’s intent as trail stewards, the work we do and the funding we have received.

I have to make it absolutely clear that while BTRA is relatively new (incorporated in 2017), motorized use on Mount Gardner is nothing new. I personally have been riding a dirt bike on Gardner trails for nearly two decades and have been using the trails as a hiker since I was little (almost 40 years). I love this mountain and the trails just as much as the next person. While it is true that we do not make up a large percentage of trail users we currently contribute a considerable amount of hours (482 total in 2019) working as volunteers on projects such as the recently completed Reservoir Bridge, contributing to trail marking, mapping and signage and general maintenance such as clearing blowdown and overgrowth off the trails. These projects benefit all trail users and as trail stewards we are happy to do this!

Sadly, it has been implied that we are attempting to change the dynamic or historic use of the mountain and that BTRA has received funding to advertise off-road vehicle use on Mt. Gardner which is absolutely untrue. Our goal is to stick to the terms of our partnership agreement, (legally gives us the ability to perform trail work and upgrades on Mt. Gardner) the aspirations of the coalition (improve safety, navigation, sustainability and accessibility for all trail users) and the guidelines provided by the province (they approve all projects and oversee our work to ensure that we’re conforming to legal trail standards). While we encourage responsible trail use and are committed to maintaining and building safe, durable, environmentally sound trails, we certainly are not in any way attempting to flood the islands trails with off-island riders or change the character of Mt. Gardner. Any funding we receive goes back into the trails making them better for all groups to enjoy. 

There’s also been a lot of discussion lately about public consultation and how we share information with the public. While in the past our undertakings as trail stewards have been covered in the Undercurrent, we’ve posted information on our social media pages too through Facebook and Instagram and now we are now looking to further improve how we interact with the public. 

As a member of the coalition we are currently developing a framework for this. After discussion at our last meeting (Jan. 28), we will be working to create an email list, which will be used to keep interested parties in the loop, including opportunities to learn about and provide feedback on new proposals before they are submitted to the district regional office for approval. 

Our mayor and council have also expressed an interest in being kept in the know and so while the municipality does not have jurisdiction over the Crown lands of Bowen, we will also be including municipal staff in our communication strategy. As a coalition we will be soon announcing details of how to get on this list. In the meantime if you wish to get involved with the trails (we would really appreciate the help) you can reach out to any of the coalition groups to apply for membership.

Regarding the recent Facebook posts about the clearing of a section of old road on Mt. Gardner near the top of Hikers Trail service road. The road was created many years ago by contractors initially to aid in the construction of the power line right of way and was also most likely used for logging in the area. The clearing of such tracks is within the scope of our section 56 partnership agreement with the Province. It was done in order to access part of the existing Mt. Gardner Trail in order to carry out trail maintenance, including clearing blowdown from that route in preparation for an upcoming trail marking event. BTRA published the work we did that day on our public Facebook page (Jan. 29, 2019). Recreation Sites and Trails BC was also informed of this work.  As was previously mentioned in the service trail proposal, a portion of this old road would have been utilized for that project. However, it was not cleared specifically for that project nor was there any new trail constructed. Sincerely,

––Kevan Bernards, president, BTRA 

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