Comment: Natural parks are not the ideal place for mountain biking
A comment from a former parks activist with the Wilderness Committee and TLC, and a member of the Elders Council for Parks in British Columbia
In 1994, we launched a campaign to secure the protection of what is now Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park, and continued to mobilize the public for the purchase of private land needed for the completion of the Greenbelt Sea to Sea, including what is now Sea to Sea and Sooke. Pothole regional parks.
Our campaign’s message was simple: These are the last great tracts of wild coastal Douglas-fir forests that have not been converted to urban development or tree plantations. Over 99 percent of the ecological area where these ancient forests once grew has been logged and developed.
The public understood and supported the campaign, contributing over $ 1.5 million in individual donations and over $ 3 million in regional land acquisition funds – a fund that the public pushed to primarily implement to enable the massive purchases of private land needed to complete the Sea to Sea. vision and protect the wild forests of our regions and the native species they support.
We received $ 2 million in federal funding from the Canadian Wildlife Service for these purchases due to the important wildlife values and the vulnerability of the coastal Douglas fir ecosystem.
I was part of the group of public advisers to draft the management plan for Sooke Hills Wilderness Regional Park. The minimal trails we designed together were designed to minimize impact.
A regulation now maintains these requirements. Impact studies had to be carried out before adding new trails. Studies that have not been done and others that have been done with recommendations that have not been implemented.
Meanwhile, a new process has been established inviting recommendations for new trail additions. Now, a public advisory group of mountain biking advocates is advising the Capital Regional District on guidelines for mountain biking in these parks and other CRDs.
At a time when the protection of biodiversity is more important globally than ever, I fear that we are losing our vision.
When I return to these hills that we have worked so hard to protect, I see meadows of wildflowers and moss that have been ripped apart and reduced to mud and bedrock. Large erosion channels exposing vital root systems, killing trees and other species already stressed by climate change.
And these are only the most visible impacts. What about the ground-nesting night owl, elk, bear, wolf and cougar. The impacts on these are only visible by their silent disappearance.
The mountain biking instructions suggest avoiding “sensitive areas”. The entire Sea to Sea Greenbelt is sensitive. It was the purpose of protecting her. It is the last undeveloped wilderness area in our region large enough to support viable populations and habitats of native species.
Certainly the hike needs to be better managed. Too many rogue trails have been created. But mountain biking is a whole different order or impact.
CRD Parks must put a stop to this inappropriate activity in these wildlife reserves. We need to find another place for mountain biking that is not in our wilderness parks.
I don’t think it’s too much to hope for from a board that has answered the call of young people and declared the climate emergency. Members of the Board of Directors know that protecting our planet’s biodiversity is an essential part of climate action.
Our planet has lost 60% of all terrestrial wildlife over the past 50 years and more than half a million species live with insufficient habitat to survive in the long term.
Is it too much to ask that here, in the capital region, we unite behind science and support the national goal of protecting biodiversity?
© Colonist of the time of copyright