OPINION: Squamish trails on trial

Kayakers, windsurfers, divers, dragonboaters, climbers, mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, base jumpers (you get the idea!) all recreate in Squamish. Given the relatively small area we’re playing in, we’re bound to bump into each other — but we don’t need to literally butt heads.

At the latest Smoke Bluffs Park Committee meeting, a trail was on trial.

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Although slated as multi-use, mountain bikers came out in force at the public meeting to air their grievances about East Side Loop Trail. Some were visibly shaken, one guest speaker swore multiple times, all gave emotional “testimony” about what had been done.

While some comments were accusing and others insinuated conspiracy theories, they needed to be said. If the thought among the mountain biking community is that a committee is actively working against them, the committee needs to hear that. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t know it’s there. Negative comments (not condoning bullying or foul language) play a crucial role in making sure all of Squamish is represented.

When the Smoke Bluffs Park was first built, as was mentioned in the meeting, it was mostly done by climbing groups. But does it matter what the park’s original purpose was, if people use it for different purposes now? Shouldn’t the push be toward safe recreation, no matter the kind, rather than saying climbers were here first? (They weren’t. This is unceded territory.)

At this point, I’ll mention that I am a climber. I have rarely, if ever, touched a mountain bike and I don’t plan to start any time soon. But I appreciate the passion mountain bikers have for Smoke Bluffs Park.

Most people in Squamish either moved or stayed here precisely because it is a recreation capital. We all love what the land offers us as a playground, and most will put their blood, sweat and tears into making sure they take care of the area. Mountain bikers, climbers and trail builders alike put the work in to make sure an area doesn’t get degraded — just as water-based athletes take care of Howe Sound. When that doesn’t happen, or an area isn’t built properly with accurate signage, people  — locals and visitors — will get hurt.

We can’t stick our heads in the sound and hope Squamish stays exactly as it was when each of us started living here.  As the weather warms and the sun returns, it’s not just Squamish residents who take to the trails. We really shouldn’t blame visitors for wanting to come here. Instead of bemoaning the crowds, we need to be ready for them. Then we can all enjoy what Squamish has to offer. And maybe we won’t have to rely on our search and rzescue team so much.

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@ Copyright Squamish Chief

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