The Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society wants to include mountain biking on Mount Richards as North Cowichan prepares to move forward with plans to develop the mountain in accordance with its Parks and Trails Master Plan.
The master plan is calling for recreational uses on the mountain to be restricted to hikers and equestrian users, but the CTSS has drawn up a position paper that encourages North Cowichan to consider adding mountain biking to the recreational activities.
Society member Rick Martinson spoke to North Cowichan council at its meeting on Feb. 1 and went over the CTSS’s position paper, which also includes a call for Mount Richards to be developed as a world-class location for mixed-use outdoor recreation, and Crofton should become the gateway for recreational use of the mountain.
Martinson said Crofton’s mill has been a primary economic driver in that community, but dependency on a single industry is a risk to a community’s vibrancy.
He said that developing another economic driver, like turning Mount Richards into a major recreational area, would reduce this risk, help drive traffic to existing businesses and lead to the development of new businesses.
“Cycling tourism is an emerging sector that has demonstrated potential to support economic and social development in rural communities,” Martinson said.
Coun. Debra Toporowski said she has serious reservations about including mountain bikers as part of the master plan for Mount Richards.
She said she used to enjoy peaceful walks on Mount Richards’ trails, but now fears going on the trails because bikers are often racing on them.
“I learned really fast which trails to go on and which ones not to go on because of safety concerns,” she said.
“I thought it was not safe for me and my grandson to be in the path of bikers coming down that hill so fast. We’ve received lots of emails asking us not to consider this.”
Martinson said the master plan’s objective is to avoid conflicts between recreational user groups and protect environmentally sensitive sections on Mount Richards.
“This can be accomplished without prohibiting mountain biking,” he said.
“The mountain could be segmented into zones; hike primary, equestrian primary and bike primary. Intersecting trails would have barriers to prevent high-speed interactions. We have the opportunity to have a vision to start with here, and develop Mount Richards’ trails with all user groups in mind.’
Coun Mike Caljouw said he thinks Mount Richards is the perfect location for mixed uses that includes bikers, hikers and equestrians.
“Some of the emails I have read in regards to this were quite negative and seem to indicate a lot of ownership of the mountain,” he said.
“I think it’s better to have mixed uses because everyone can use it. If we start limiting access to certain groups, we could have conflicts and that’s something we don’t want when people are out recreating.”
Mayor Rob Douglas told Martinson that it’s the practice of council not to make motions on an issue in the same meeting that it is addressed by a delegation.
He said if council explores the issue further, it will be at a future meeting.
“A lot of folks are excited about opening the mountain up to mountain biking, and some have different views on that,” Douglas said.
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