In late 2004, the shooting of a pet dog on a trail near Pemberton by a hunter touched off a sometimes-heated discussion in that community over the rights and responsibilities of both hunters and dog owners when out using the area’s abundant trails. At the urging of public officials, groups representing hunters and non-hunting recreational users eventually got together and worked out a public education strategy that included the erection of kiosks at key trailheads. The kiosks were to include trail maps as well as information about the variety of recreational activities allowed there — including the approximate timing of hunting season.
The two groups’ actions didn’t eliminate conflicts once and for all. But at least they led to better understanding of everyone’s rights and responsibilities, and ultimately, made Pemberton-area trails safer and more accessible for all.
This week’s accidental shooting of a dirt biker in the Cat Lake area is a near-tragedy — the victim can count himself as lucky to be alive to enjoy this Christmas season with family and friends — that cries out for a similar response.
It was gratifying for this writer to receive a call from the president of the Squamish Dirt Bike Association (SDBA) not long after we posted a story based on Squamish RCMP account of the shooting on our website. Ed Alder phoned to see if he could get the victim’s contact information and to express his concern about the potential for what he called the “jackass element” from the Lower Mainland put SDBA members and other users at risk. This clearly wasn’t the first close call of a similar nature, but Alder seemed determined to take steps to ensure that it’s the last. Bravo.
We don’t know the identities of those who were out target shooting on Sunday (Dec. 9), but based on the group’s actions, it’s clear there’s a need for increased education about the area. And it’s not just hunters and target shooters who need to be educated — dirt and mountain bikers, trail runners and dog walkers should be aware of everyone’s rights and responsibilities and act accordingly.
As well, public officials need to prosecute those who put others at risk through their own ignorance or carelessness. We didn’t lose anyone — this time. Only through increased communication and co-operation do we have any hope of ensuring there’s no next time.
— David Burke