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Cat Lake dirtbikers act as cleanup stewards

Club is working with government agencies to maintain the popular camping and biking destination
Dirtbiker cleanup
Squamish dirtbikers have been cleaning up large amounts of debris in the Cat Lake area.

In early January, somebody driving a motorhome pulled into the woods surrounding Cat Lake and set up camp near the trail system used by the Squamish Dirtbike Association. The occupants then proceeded to live there for nearly four months, accumulating mounds of garbage that they had no way to dispose of. Then, in early May, they set the whole mess on fire.

“What I try to do on a consistent basis, being president, is look people in the eye. There’s lots of people camping in the bush. They show up at Cat Lake, it’s over-subscribed, so instead of going somewhere else they just drive up the hill and find an open spot. So we find random people in the bush all the time,” said Philip Lay. 

“I have the polite conversation: if you poop, take a shovel. There’s a lot of that on the trails, which is inconvenient. So I tell them to keep it off the trail, bury it, all that good stuff. I tell them to pack out what you pack in. We act as advocates and stewards for the area. Unfortunately, sometimes people don’t listen.”

Currently, there are approximately 60 kilometres of maintained trails in the Cat Lake area. The club includes veteran bikers alongside beginners, with a weekly calendar designating when their different cohorts meet up to practice. The club was founded in the 1980s, when restrictions on where the dirtbikes could go were much more lax. Now, they work with the Sea to Sky Recreation District and the District of Squamish to develop and maintain particular sites, such as Cat Lake. They’re proud of it, and take ownership of it.

That’s why the garbage fire was so offensive, beyond simply giving them a grisly task — it was the lack of respect for other people.

“I will usually roll in and let people know that this is our riding area, that we really respect everyone’s right to recreate, but at the same time can you please pack out what you packed in? Most people are great and compliant, but this person just decided not to,” he said.

“There were eight of us on that clean up, and we had to be careful about needles and things like that. The ministry is going to finance it, they’re going to pay for the dump fees and we work in conjunction with them, but at the same time it comes down to me calling in favours from friends that have heavy machinery so we can get it to a manageable point and the garbage can work its way to the dump.”

Lay is very grateful for their strong relationship with the government, and believes the partnership will go a long way towards keeping Squamish area wilderness as pristine as possible. He emphasized that they’re maintaining the area for everybody, not just themselves.

“Cat Lake is for everybody. People say ‘it’s our trail’ and well, I say it’s a trail we maintain. It’s not good for a long distance runner, maybe, but it’s still available to them. We co-operate with everybody so everyone can recreate and have fun.”

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