Joni Mitchells lyric, They paved paradise, put up a parking lot, was running through my head as I read the article and supporting editorial in the September 16th edition on the proposed trail system around Barbour Lake. As a resident of Toby Benches for the last 10 years, I am somewhat saddened to see that yet another development, primarily for cyclists, is being proposed for the area. Should it proceed, then by my rough calculations 50 per cent of the Crown Land of the Benches would become primarily for the use of cyclists. I realize the proposal is for multi-use trails, but having watched the growth of the Lake Lillian/Johnson/Kloosifier areas from simple loops to a complex web of trails, I have seen that where we used to hike, walk our dog, and take friends to see Toby Creek and Mr. Happy Hoodoo is no longer available to us. It is simply too risky to walk where there are bikers travelling at speed. The bike trails are not designed for walkers or cross-country skiers theyre designed to provide an exciting ride, which they do. The ride is often so exciting that the bikers hoot and holler as they fly down the hills and around the corners (and while disturbing the quiet, this does give warning or their approach!). Hikers in the area are now as rare as the goats and turkey vultures that once lived there.
In reading through the proposal, prepared at some cost, I presume, by a consulting firm, I was pleased to note that there had been a proactive approach to community consultation and that someone had contacted adjacent landowners.
It does seem odd, however, that the Toby Benches Society (of which I am the secretary) representing the residents, has not been approached as it had been for the previous bike trail expansions.
Among its members are individuals who have lived here for over 70 years and understand the area and its ecosystem far better than the VAST experts brought in for an ecological assessment based on one visit in April to Barbour Lake. How could they know about the elk herds that frequent this area through most of the year? Why has this source of local expertise and understanding been ignored?
I sincerely hope that the referral process referred to will occur, but given that the maps of the proposed trails already bear the logo of Recreation Sites and Trails BC, the proposal states that (t)he provincial government has asked that Barbour Rock be developed as a multi-user area (I dont know who they asked), and the cycling society has already laid some track, it seems a decision is a fait accompli. For my part, I hope that we are able to Keep Barbour Wild, so that it can be an area used by hikers, bikers, horse riders, ATV-ers and wildlife alike, the way it currently is. I would be happy to hear from others who arent convinced that supporting (this proposal) is a no-brainer, and would like to get involved in the referral process (contact email@example.com).