The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) board of directors has agreed to support a proposal from the Kootenay Dirt Riders Association (KDRA) for a recreationally designated 65km trail network in the TaTa creek area.
The proposal from KDRA is for a Crown Land License of Occupation which, if approved by the province, will see the establishment of an existing trail network designated as an official recreation site. KDRA also plans to build infrastructure at the site including a camping/staging area and pit-toilets.
The decision now officially lies in the hands of the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
Kimberley’s Alex Buterman is a member of the KDRA and says that the purpose of the proposal is to protect the trail network that has been used primarily for dirt biking for the past 40 years.
“This trail network has been in use for the past 40 years, and as someone who frequently uses these trails, the KDRA saw it fit to become stewards of the land in an effort to better protect the area and make it more safe for every type of user,” Buterman said.
Local environmental group Wildsight recently issued a press release stating that they are opposed to the proposal, citing concerns about sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and grasslands.
“Formalizing more than 60 kilometres of dirt biking trails could increase cumulative impacts, users, and further increase off-road impacts on sensitive ecosystems such as wetlands and grasslands,” said Eddie Petryshen, Wildsight Conservation Coordinator. “Given the current size and scope of the current proposal, we have serious concerns about impacts on wildlife, connectivity, and grassland ecosystems.”
Continued high-impact human use such as dirt biking results in more destruction to the land and the animals that depend on it, Petryshen said. By formalizing trails, it will bring even more riders to the region who can inadvertently rip up soil, scare off wildlife, and negatively impact the environment, he adds.
Buterman explained that the KDRA was established in 2007, and one of their mandates is to always pack in what you pack out and their goal with this application is to protect the area.
“We want to take a critical look at the existing trail network and work with all stakeholders involved to make it sustainable, with the wildlife in mind,” he said. “We want support from all entities and we’re trying to do this right. We’re looking for continued support and the perspectives of users.”
Wildsight says that the proposed trails run through a “stunning natural setting filled with beautiful open grasslands mixed with sparsely forested areas and dense stands of Interior Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Wetlands and riparian features complete the habitat in a space perfectly suited for birds, badgers, mule deer, elk, and bears. The unique dry grasslands are particularly important for ungulates, both for their foraging and security cover”.
Buterman touched on the fact that in the winter time, the area is a prime range for ungulates. He says the KDRA has no intention of destroying that, and the trail network wouldn’t be used during the winter months.
“We are a courteous, and conscientious group. We got organized as a society and applied for these lands with the Ministry to protect it for future riding,” Buterman said. “We’ve had many strategy meetings over the years and one thing that we want to stress is these trails will be user-friendly for all types of people from hiking and biking to horse-back and dirt-biking. All users are welcome and we do not want any conflict with other users. We want people to be aware that the trails are being used by dirt bikers, for everyone’s safety. So far, we’ve heard no complaints about the use of motor bikes in the area.”
Wildsight also cited concerns about the potential for spreading invasive species through the use of recreational vehicles.
“Invasive weeds such as hawkweek, sulphur cinquefoill, and knapweed are known to exist in this landscape and in close proximity to the proposed tenure. Soil disturbance associated with recreational vehicles increases the opportunity and spread of invasive species,” Wildsight said in the press release.
Petryshen adds that Wildsight would prefer a more concentrated area if the application is indeed to be approved.
“Our preference would be to limit motorized activity and rehabilitate roads and trails. If intensive motorized recreation is going to take place, it should be concentrated into a much smaller area like the heavily utilized area near the existing motocross jumps,” says Petryshen. “Regardless of the outcome, increased control and enforcement of motorized recreation is necessary in order to support responsible users ability to recreate with minimal impact.”
Buterman says that part of their plan is to ensure proper signage and trail etiquette.
“We’ve had lots of conversation in our meetings about what keeps people on trails and what keeps them safe. A big part of that is proper signage,” said Buterman. “When I travel somewhere else and use their trails, I stick to the mapped areas because I don’t want to get lost.”
He went on to say that designating this land as a recreation site will keep it safe for future generations.
“Over time a lot of local land has been closed to motorized recreation,” he said. “I want my son to be able to learn to dirt bike in a safe environment in an area that’s protected.”
BC Rec Sites and Trails is responsible for making the final decision on whether to allow this proposal to move forward. Write an email to Lisa Cox, Recreation Officer for the Rocky Mountain South Recreation District, citing your concerns. Email Lisa.Cox@gov.bc.ca.