Steeves: Separate backcountry trails needed for motors and feet

Hiking is not only about exercise or scenery; it’s also about feeling at peace once that cacophony of sound drops away and you’re off the asphalt and concrete and into to the wild.

That’s when my shoulders drop and my brow lines smooth out, and I feel the concerns of daily life and work being put into perspective in my mind.

Traffic noise, sirens and horns; loud music and talk; industrial equipment and loud tools; the constant drone of motors and whine of machinery: it can drive me mad after awhile.

But, once I’m out on the trail those sounds all die away and I’m aware of the hummingbird buzzing by and the sound of the wind rustling leaves near me.

They’re small sounds that don’t annoy. In fact, they help to set my soul free.

That process comes to a crashing end when the annoying whine of a dirt bike, gearing up to become a loud roar, interrupts that peacefulness as it bears down on me.

Then, all of Mother Nature’s attempts to relax me are wiped out in an instant and I’m on guard and in stress mode all over again.

That’s just one of the reasons I don’t feel motorized and non-motorized users should try to share the same trails.

It’s a big decision to take up dirt biking, or to buy an ATV.

You need a suitable vehicle to carry it or to tow the trailer carrying it to wherever you can ride; an appropriate space to store it at home; the funds to maintain it and all the ancillary equipment you’ll need; insurance and permits that go with all the equipment you need; clothing that will make you safe and comfortable while riding—and likely all the same for someone else in your family who will ride with you.

It’s not for everyone.

Lots of people can’t supply some of what’s needed and some simply can’t afford it at all.

But anyone can go for a hike. All you really need are a stout pair of shoes.

Similarly, there’s not nearly so much involved to go for a simple bike ride along a wilderness trail.

It’s a recreational pursuit that’s open to far more people than motorized recreation is.

And, to my mind that’s part of what the Trans Canada Trail is all about: an outdoor recreational opportunity that’s open to everyone, regardless of whether they’re rich or poor.

It takes up only a small space in each community it passes by, since it’s linear, and people can decide to use as much or as little of it as they’d like or have the time or energy to use.

It’s largely maintained by volunteers and much of the fund-raising for bridges or other infrastructure has even been done by those same volunteers.

Families can spend an afternoon or a two-week holiday together enjoying a tramp along the trail. It’s peaceful and quiet and an opportunity to have friendly chats as well as just quietly enjoying each other’s company and the natural surroundings.

Add motorized recreation, though, and it’s a different kettle of fish.

Trail surfaces that can stand up under millions of feet will not stay in shape long being used by big rubber tires, and already local cycling businesses taking visitors from Myra Canyon, which is closed to motorized use, to Chute Lake or Penticton, have had to find alternate routes because the trail has been torn up so badly.

Of course, safety is another issue that’s unavoidable whenever you mix motorized and non-motorized uses on the same narrow trail: fast and slow, big and little, powerful and vulnerable just don’t combine very well.

And, you know who’s going to win any battles.

Right now the battle over who may use parts of the TCT is being waged by petition, with the Quad Riders’ Association of B.C. urging riders to contact their MLA regarding usage of the Spirit of 2010 Trail, which includes large rail-trail portions of the TCT.

So, if you feel strongly either way, you’d better become involved in this furore right now about where motorized trail use should be permitted, and make your feelings known to your MLA and the Minister of Forests, Lands and Resource Operations, Steve Thomson at: or forward him this column, if it mirrors your feelings.

There are miles and miles of deactivated forest service roads and other trails available to motorized riders, but only one TCT, which is intended for non-motorized use.

Trails B.C. is urging people to make their concerns known and protect the future of the TCT as a non-motorized trail. For more information, go to the website at: or find Trails B.C. on Facebook.

Upcoming events

The Central Okanagan Naturalists’ Club’s series of 50 public events to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year continues this weekend, with a walk along the historic Fur Brigade Trail, meeting at Bear Creek Provincial Park along Westside Road on Saturday, Aug. 13, at 9 a.m.

It’s classed as a beginner to intermediate outing.

The next in this Discover Nature series begins in the Scenic Canyon Regional Park parking lot Saturday, Aug. 20, at 10 a.m.

The destination is the upper KLO Creek trail, Priest Creek trail and the cement flume loop trail and it’s classified as easy grades.

For both hikes participants are asked to bring their lunch, water and snacks, if needed, along with $1 for insurance costs.

Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues.



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