Police looking for information in second incident of potential vandalism in recent weeks on popular paved cycling trail

By Steve Hubrecht

Several incidents of what may have been intentional vandalism have struck the popular Westside Legacy Trail in the past several weeks.

The damage has occurred both on the official Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail, and on Invermere’s Westside connector trail, that joins the official Westside trail with Invermere’s municipal paved trail network.

The first incident on the Westside connector happened about six weeks ago, and saw roughly 20 or so of the piling-like, heavy-duty plastic, pylon post barriers that separate the trail from Westside road mowed down. The pylons are set into the ground, and knocking them over requires significant force, such as would come from being hit by a motor vehicle. The second incident occurred two weeks ago on Friday, April 7 and saw another 15 pilings mowed down.

Local resident Dave Norcross lives along Westside Road, on the lake side, right near the cattle guard and consequently got a pretty good look at the aftermath of both incidents, and indeed he and his wife actually heard the second incident happen. They were out on their deck in the evening on Friday, April 7, when they heard a loud ‘whump-whump-whump’ sound coming from the road.

“The next day, I saw that there was about 15 of them (the pylons) mowed down,” Norcross told the Pioneer. He noted that possibly it may have been an accident, but the fact that it’s happened twice in the last six weeks makes it seem otherwise.

“If it is an accident, the driver is really over there (driving on the trail instead of the road) a long time. Most people, if they were to drive into one of those pylons by accident, would almost certainly be startled after hitting the first one and would pull back onto the road or would slam on their brakes. Maybe they might hit another one or two posts before getting back on the road or stopping, but they probably wouldn’t keep going and mow down another 19 more posts,” said Norcross. “If it truly was unintentional and the driver was really, really drunk, or has dementia, or something like that, then perhaps this person shouldn’t have their driver’s license, because they could be hitting people instead of posts next time.”

But Norcross pointed out that, if it is the result of drunken driving or dementia, it does seem odd that it’s occurred twice in roughly the same place in a relatively short time frame.

He found a vehicle grill among the smashed pilings after the second incident, which indicates the vehicle responsible was a GMC pickup or SUV.

Norcross noted that the downed pilings create a considerable safety hazard for cyclists and other trail users, who no longer have a barrier separating them from traffic on that stretch of the trail, and that millions of dollars were spent creating the Westside Legacy Trail and its connector trail, and that having to repair such senseless damage means additional costs.

Greenways Trail Alliance project manager Lianne Lang told the Pioneer about another recent incident of vandalism — this time clearly intentional — that occurred on the section of the West Side Legacy trail near the beaver pond, where the trial briefly right runs on Westside Road. Somebody had removed and damaged the large wooden barriers that Greenways had put in place there to prevent cyclists and other trails users from shooting out onto the road.

“When people interfere with these safety measures, it could create a bad situation for trail users or motorists,” said Lang.

“Somebody’s not a good driver. They are either not a good driver or they are doing it intentionally. I feel a bit frustrated if they are doing intentionally, because there is a great cost with that, both to the district financially and in terms of compromising the safety of people on the trail,” said Invermere mayor Al Miller. “However it happened, whether somebody was drunk, or whether it was intentional, or what, the bottom line is that it is not right. The barriers (pilings) are there to protect citizens who are walking, running, cycling or engaging in other forms of active transport on the trail, and this puts those people in a position of extra risk, so I’m really not too happy about that.”

Columbia Valley RCMP Corporal Louis-Philippe Gendron-Fafard explained that the local RCMP detachment is aware of what he called “the mischief to the plastic pylons along the Westside Legacy Trail near the CastleRock subdivision.” Gendron-Fafard confirmed it is the second incident, but said the RCMP has no information to indicate that the incidents are related. 

“At this time, we are investigating the matters and would welcome any information from readers regarding the damage caused,” said Gendron-Fafard. 

Anybody with information related to the incident can contact the local Columbia Valley RCMP detachment at 250 342 9292. The most recent incident on Friday, May 7, is case file 2021-1209.