The Barbour Rock Trail Project is of great concern to me; new trails seem to be popping up all over the place; Kimberley, for example, has a similar dilemma with regard to the Bootleg Project.
It is evident trails are being dedicated almost solely for special interest groups, like mountain bikers, without information being made available to the public, and without adequate, effective and inclusive public consultation. In our case, these new trails are being established in the watersheds of Kimberley and Marysville, with the majority proposed for the watershed that feeds St. Mary Valley rural residents.
A Memorandum of Understanding was to be signed between the City and RSTBC, but was eventually scrapped by RSTBC as being too convoluted. The St. Mary Valley residents were not given an opportunity to participate; residents were left hanging in no mans land with no public ministry, or public servant willing to be held accountable.
The Bootleg Recreation Masterplan for this site, of which we had no input, has been presented to a select few, but, as far as Im aware, has not been made available for general public viewing.
There are already 179 trails in the Kimberley area, not counting the new trails that are supposedly being brought on-stream. Trails cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, let alone the cost of ongoing maintenance. How many trails have to be built to basically satisfy adrenalin urges and extreme behaviour, and will the taxpayer eventually be responsible for paying for the upkeep of these monstrous, environmentally destructive undertakings?
Most people are very aware of how important the backcountry is to their well-being, and want to see the integrity and balance of nature maintained. The reality is a major part of our conservation problem relates to overuse by too many people.
Proliferation of trails is counter-productive; it only encourages more overuse, and related cumulative soil, vegetation and wildlife damage. There might be a little more money left in the community to begin with, but it comes at a serious cost environmentally, and the costs will be substantial, possibly unmanageable, in the future.
In addition to the biking interests, responsibility falls on all backcountry users to identify their agendas, and ask honest questions about how their particular usage may negatively be affecting the environment, and what can be done to reduce or eliminate any threats.
With regard to animal populations, it may have to be considered what causes greater damage to wildlife deliberate kill, along with the attendant displacement and harassment stemming from hunters (and sometimes their dogs), or the longer term, incremental degradation of habitat security by trail systems and human users that result in wildlife displacement, harassment and ultimately local alienation, all cumulative impacts that manifest themselves in less space and fewer animals?
These latter issues relate directly to endangered species, but thats not the full extent of it. In todays conservation landscape, a major focus of efforts has to include how NOT to make common species rare, or how NOT to make a population uncommon or threatened that appears to be abundant and well-distributed.
With outdoor recreation at an all-time high, we cannot continue to take for granted that Mother Nature will continue to successfully absorb all that we throw at her. An environmentally sound vision/policies for backcountry usage, which includes all voices, needs to be made a priority.
St. Mary Valley