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WORCA still investigating trail sabotage



Bike group asks members to cycle elsewhere until issues can be resolved

Although the name of a suspect is being circulated around town and WORCA has contacted the RCMP regarding some potentially dangerous trail sabotage in the Emerald Estates area, WORCA president Mike Watton is asking members to continue to avoid the trails in the area until the issue can be resolved.

The police were involved because WORCA felt that the actions, which included removing some obstacles and putting in roots and hazardous obstacles along the bike paths, created a real danger for riders and wildlife.

The damage was discovered almost two weeks ago when a group of five riders ventured out into the area.

"After we got about ten flats, we started to look a little closer at the ground. We found a few nails, and kept looking, and we started finding more and more," says Ian Ritz, who works at Evolution.

According to Ritz, the nails were hammered along tree roots in areas where the trail narrowed, and along obstacles like logs. The tops were cut off of the nails, which made them difficult to pull out.

Adding to the danger, Ritz says the nails were put "in some pretty gnarly spots. One area has a couple of steep rocks, and the nails were in the roots at the bottom of those rocks, right in the run out. You’re going pretty fast at the bottom and trying to hang on, so it’s the last place you want a flat. People could fall on (the nails) as well.

"I don’t know if the person was trying to hurt people, but he did it in a way that could definitely cause some injuries."

Ritz was especially disturbed by the damage to the trails because it came out of nowhere – the mountain bike community was not even aware that anyone objected to these trails, he says, and there were a lot of diplomatic routes that the person could have gone through before resorting to this type of action.

WORCA president Mike Watton agrees.

"The perpetrators missed a couple of steps. You could put up a sign saying Private property, no bikes allowed. You could contact the municipality. You’d have to live under a rock not to be aware of WORCA’s existence as a trail advocacy group," Watton says. "Even if that fails, there are other options to spiking the trails. But to go ahead and do that without looking into other means is really kind of absurd."

WORCA volunteers have walked the trails and tried to remove the nails. Since the heads have been cut off, the volunteers had little choice but to nail them in all the way.

WORCA was not only concerned for bikers, but also for hikers, local wildlife and pets that may have stepped on the nails.

"We may have missed a few, so it’s really not worth riding those trails right now," says Watton. Another reason to avoid the trails is to give WORCA more time to understand what their rights are in the area without escalating the conflict.

Ted Battison, the WORCA director of trails is currently investigating to find out who owns the land the bike trails were on, and to find out if the owner or owners have any objection to the bike trails.

When the WORCA board meets this week, the issue will be first and foremost on the agenda, says Watton.

The club made a police report immediately after discovering the nails, to involve the authorities and start a police file on the case.

"Now everything that is ongoing can be collected in one place if things escalate," he says.

WORCA had hoped to have a dialogue with the perpetrators over the issue by now, because they want to solve the problem as soon as possible. Watton says the group has a good record in resolving trail advocacy issues, helping to close or redirect trails where there are user conflicts. Recently, WORCA members volunteered to help with the rehabilitation of the Emerald Forest, closing off some bike trails and building bridges over areas prone to damage.

The RCMP are still investigating the case, and say the perpetrator or perpetrator could be charged with mischief if they spiked roots on crown land. If anyone was injured, other charges could be considered.

As it stands, aside from a number of tires and tubes, no injuries have been reported.

Similar trail sabotage has occurred on North Shore trails over the last five years, with the perpetrators using broken glass, sawed-off nails, and even stringing wire. No injuries were reported in those cases either.

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