A Radium Hot Springs resident with a passion for trail building is preparing for a court appearance on charges of contravening the National Park Act.
In April, David Pacey was caught by Parks Canada wardens in Kootenay National Park using a Swede saw to clear trees on the Kindersley Trail without Parks Canada’s knowledge or consent. He was escorted by the wardens down the trail and out of the park.
They said, ‘David, you’re not allowed to do that’, Mr. Pacey told The Pioneer, adding one of the wardens already knew his name, since he’d been caught by that warden last summer doing unauthorized maintenance work on the same trail, using a wheelbarrow to transport gravel across Highway 93 to improve the muddy trail entrance.
They (Parks Canada) didn’t like my doing that then, and they didn’t like it this time, said Mr. Pacey.
He is now scheduled to appear in Invermere court on Monday, August 29th. Contravening the National Park Act, as he is accused of, is considered a summary offence (as is speeding, parking violations, littering and public intoxication), not a criminal code offence.
Mr. Pacey says he has been doing trail maintenance work in the south end of Kootenay National Park since 2013 because Parks Canada can’t or won’t.
The trails are totally not up to Parks Canada’s own specifications. I’ve tried to get permission to do this as a volunteer, but that hasn’t worked, he said. So here I am, trying to do their job for them and they’re giving me a ticket.
The Pioneer contacted Parks Canada, but the organization wont comment directly since it is an ongoing legal issue.
Parks Canada is a world leader in conservation and takes the protection of the resources under its care, and upholding of its Acts and Regulations, very seriously. It would not be appropriate to comment at this time as the matter is before the courts, said Parks Canada spokesperson Lindsay McPherson.
Mr. Pacey has been living in the valley more than 15 years and, as avid outdoors person, said he’s been dismayed by the state of trails in south end of Kootenay National Park ever since he arrived Appalling is the word for them, they’re just horrid and it comes from decades of neglect. It’s a World Heritage Site and you can barely get though some of the trails safely, he said, listing vegetation overgrowth, erosion, overly narrow trails and blowdown among other concerns.
In 2007, he began calling Parks Canada with complaints, but said he hasn’t seen much progress. Mr. Pacey said he’s been told by Parks Canada that there isn’t enough money for the work that he wants to see done, but he questions that, pointing out that Parks Canada has plenty of money to build wildlife fencing through Kootenay National Park.
I tried going through the system, but basically I was ignored, he said.
Eventually, Mr. Pacey, who has worked as a professional forestry road engineer and has plenty of trail building experience, grew frustrated and, three years ago, took matters into his own hands, starting to clear trails on his own without Parks Canada’s knowledge. He estimates he’s put in more than 300 hours of work clearing and rebuilding trails since then, including clearing the first three and a half kilometres of the Kindersley Trail, and much of the Cobb Lake Trail.
Last summer, Mr. Pacey and Summit Trailmakers Society president Wayne Lyons spent more than four hours with Parks Canada Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay field unit superintendent Melanie Kwong and another Park Canada staff member walking the Kindersley Trail, pointing out where it needs to be improved and detailing the work Mr. Pacey had done to fix the trail. He later sent a two-page email of suggestions for improvements to Ms. Kwong.
Mr. Pacey says hes been told by a Parks employee that the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop trail might get closed down (I guess they figure if they don’t have the money to fix the trail, they might as well close it.)
The court case will likely be deferred to a future date instead of being resolved on August 29th, according to Mr. Pacey, since he is still seeking copies of Parks Canada Trail Guidelines through a Freedom of Information request.
I tried to get them directly from Parks Canada, but was told they are an internal document, so I’m going through Freedom of Information, he said. I need them, since that is going to be the crux of my defence.
In the meantime, Mr. Pacey is continuing his campaign to improve the Kindersley Trail by gathering signatures on a petition calling on the federal Ministry of Environment to quickly fix the trail system in the south end of Kootenay National Park. He has 80 to 90 signatures so far and is looking for more. Mr. Pacey said he’s also been in contact with Kootenay-Columbia MP and NDP National Parks Critic Wayne Stetski, and that Mr. Stetski has offered to personally deliver the petition to the ministry.