By Steve Hubrecht
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The Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail has continued to suffer damage; some of it was intentional. Most recently, an interpretive sign was knocked over — either falling of its own accord or possibly having been knocked over; a pair of stop signs were stolen from a crossing; and somebody drove a motor vehicle up a narrow, switchbacking section of the non-motorized paved recreation trail.

The damage comes a few weeks after somebody removed barriers along the Westside Legacy trail and pylon-like delineator barriers were twice knocked over along the district of Invermere’s Westside connector trail.

The interpretive sign — which had just been installed two weeks ago — came down on a section of the trail high up above the parallel Westside road, in a spot where the trail cuts through the K2 ranch, on Friday, May 29. Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance project manager Lianne Lang explained that as there is no evidence, other than the sign being down, of vandalism, it is possible that the bolts simply failed and the interpretive sign then just fell over. “There’s been no damage to the sign from it falling over,” said Lang.

But the removal and theft of the stop signs, which happened the same day, is clearly intentional, she noted. The signs were taken from where the trail crosses the Dutch Creek Hoodoos Conservation Area parking lot. The sign’s removal creates a genuine safety hazard as it heightens the chance of motorists and cyclists, and other trail users could accidentally collide at the crossing.

Lang pointed out that although replacing the stop signs is not necessarily an exorbitant expense, the cost will certainly run into the hundreds of dollars if not to more than a $1,000, and that Greenways is a charitable nonprofit society, and “we don’t have an endless budget…when damage is repetitive it adds up over time.”

In another clearly intentional incident that also created a considerable safety hazard, it appears quite likely that somebody drove a vehicle up the Westside Legacy Trail’s first major switchback, rising up from Goldie Creek.

“You can see tracks at the first corner, where the vehicle’s wheels had gone off the trail and spun out,” said Lang, adding the trail has been damaged a bit as a result, but a major concern is the risk to the driver and to any cyclists or trail users. “The trail does get quite narrow further up that switchback where there’s that beautiful grass wall. It wouldn’t be hard for a vehicle to slip right off the edge there. And of course, there’s a chance of the vehicle hitting somebody riding the trail, who of course isn’t expecting to have a vehicle come around the corner,” said Lang. “It’s a non-motorized trail, and quite obviously, people shouldn’t be up there driving on it. It’s really dangerous. Whoever is doing it, if it’s teenagers or young adults that are just bored and looking for something to do, there are other ways to entertain yourself that aren’t putting others and yourself in danger. Please stay off the trail.”