Bear Mountain plans to charge fees for access to its trails

The company behind Bear Mountain is about to charge for access to its network of biking and hiking trails.

Citing increased liability due to higher numbers of hikers and bikers on its property, Ecoasis is launching a trail network program that will include user fees for those who do not live in the Bear Mountain community, waivers for those who do and a new security program to keep bikers and hikers off its two 18-hole golf courses.

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“As the landowners we want to create a positive experience as well as a safe environment for our members, residents and guests,” said Ecoasis chief executive Dan Mathews. “We are experiencing a growing number of hikers and cyclists on our property including our golf courses and cart paths, which has raised serious safety and liability issues along with increased costs.

“This is a land management issue of our private property. In order to achieve the safe enjoyment of our amenities we are planning to implement a well-managed, structured trail network program.”

The program will require residents wanting to use the 13 kilometres of trails on the resort’s 750 acres to sign a liability waiver, while non-residents will have to pay a user fee that will fund trail repair and enhancement.

In its newsletter this week, the company noted the trail network, like its golf and tennis offerings are amenities on private property. Daniel Cammiade, executive director of the Nature Trails Society, said it’s disappointing any time you see trails go from public to private.

“That’s not progress in my mind, it’s certainly disappointing,” he said, noting there may be an outcry as pulling Bear Mountain’s network from public use would mean severing a network that links with other trails on Skirt Mountain and beyond, as well as the popular trails on the backside of Mount Finlayson.

“A lot of connections could be cut off,” he said, noting a lot of hikers who don’t want to return down the steep front face of Mount Finlayson will use parts of Bear Mountain’s Canada Cup Trail to descend.

Cammiade said he understands there are costs and liability issues, but still hopes Ecoasis will reconsider the decision.

“We live in an area that is becoming over-populated with the amount of development going on and green spaces are becoming more precious,” he said. “From our point of view sharing is the answer. From a trail-user perspective I’m saddened by the decision, it’s too bad.”

On its website, Ecoasis’ Bear Mountain, which is made up of two golf courses, a tennis club, real estate and the trail networks, said it supports the Nature Trails Society vision to connect the trails in Greater Victoria with the goal of increasing visits to the region’s parks.

The trail network program recently installed “no trespassing” signs around the Bear Mountain property and will soon add more signs outlining where walking and cycling is permitted as a result of increased traffic on the hiking and mountain biking trails.

The enhanced security program, which will include security personnel, camera surveillance and enforcement, to prevent unauthorized public use of the golf courses, is a result of an increase in the number of unauthorized walkers and cyclists on the golf courses.

In its newsletter, Bear Mountain noted: “Membership to the Bear Mountain Golf Club formalizes the use and enjoyment of golf facilities. When golf members encounter non-golfers on the course, it places the possibility of liability with them should there be an incident involving golf carts or someone being struck by a golf ball. This places an unfair burden on golf members and guests who have paid for this privilege.”

Ecoasis said the amount of the trail access fee and when it will begin has yet to be determined.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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