For mountain bikers there is nothing like a day of riding in the Chilcotins, representing the best network high alpine cross country trails in the south coast if not the entire province. But access to a portion of those trails is in jeopardy if the Ministry of Forests and Range carries out its plan to decommission a Forest Service Road used for access.
"The road that most concerns us is the Mud Creek-Paradise Creek branch... that allows you to do Castle Pass, Paradise Creek and Tyaughton Creek," said Peter Colapinto, who lives in Pemberton and sits on the Bridge River Trails Society. "Without the roads the trails are gone."
The ministry posted an information bulletin on four proposed road closures on May 10, giving until May 31 for the public to comment. So far the bulletin has been reposted on several mountain bike websites, including the Pemberton Valley Trails Association, the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association and North Shore Mountain Bike (NSMB.com).
According to the bulletin, decommissioning the roads will include removing bridges and culverts, as well as road stabilization to prevent soil erosion. Most roads are impassible after decommissioning says Colapinto with deep ditches and rivers that are dangerous to cross.
The bulletin notes that those areas area accessible "by other routes," but these are far longer and less practical than the current access for mountain bikers.
Colapinto is concerned that other trails will also be lost as the forestry ministry closes access to areas where logging operations have wrapped up as a cost-saving measure.
"It's systematic, what's going on up there," he said. "They're shutting down roads all over the place and not consulting the community. We come in and see that bridges and culverts are gone and can only shake our heads and wonder what they're doing, if they even know what they're doing. They may not even know that people are using these roads for biking and riding horses, which is why we're asking people to speak up now."
The town of Gold Bridge and the surrounding area has built a small tourism industry based on trails in the area, offering accommodation, horseback riding tours, shuttles and airlifts for mountain bikers and other backcountry opportunities. Colapinto does not know which companies could be affected, but says he regularly encounters groups on horseback in the area.
"The best thing they have going for them right now is tourism, so closing access to any areas can't be good," he said.
The deactivations would take place this year, according to the Ministry.
Feedback can be sent to Shane.Stockwell@gov.bc.ca.
The Pique attempted to reach the Ministry to find out what kind of response they've received to the bulletin as well as the cost of keeping the roads open, but received no response at press time.