Forest companies should work with trail groups

As a recent director of the Vancouver Island Spine Trail Association, it’s obvious VISTA’s decade-old problem has been gaining access through private forest land. So I was heartened to hear TimberWest had struck a deal with United Riders of Cumberland to allow mountain-bike access.

The details reveal something much less than the community-spirited company portrayed in recent articles: Limited access, two-year term only, $16-million extra insurance coverage required, costing the association $3,300 per year. We were charged $500 just to cross their Cowichan cutblock to have a look at possible routes.

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TimberWest cites vandalism, trespassing, dumping, shooting, illegal use of motorized vehicles, illegal campfires and workplace safety. Many trail studies have dispelled these objections, especially criminal activity that, despite pre-trail naysaying, actually plummeted. There’s nothing safer than having avid, environmentally minded hikers on the lookout for any of the above activities. Criminals hate company.

As for safety concerns during active logging, we want folks to experience a working forest. We want to show TimberWest’s harvesting and replanting efforts. Surely, temporary detours could be put in place. But all these objections are red herrings.

We want to work with the forest companies, but their refusal will only continue to alienate their position, which I predict will lead to a less-than-satisfactory government-imposed solution in the public’s favour.

Ken Milbrath


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