At least one neighbour of the Kaspa Road parking area for the trails on Mount Tzouhalem is encouraged that the Municipality of North Cowichan has decided to take a look at the growing traffic and other concerns in the area he dubs “Kaspa bedlam”.
Longtime resident Lon Wood said the decision by the municipality’s council on Dec. 16 to have staff prepare a report exploring long and short-term solutions to the challenges at the site gives him cause for hope that the issue will be resolved in a reasonable manner.
“In my case, the complaint I submitted to the municipality was made more in sorrow than anger,” Wood said.
“It’s only a small minority of the trail users that are guilty of bad behaviour. The success of the trail system is encouraging, but it’s almost too much of a good thing. I believe it just hasn’t been thought through taking into consideration all the circumstances.”
Wood and almost 30 other residents in the area of the trailhead of Mount Tzouhalem’s biking and walking trails sent letters to council outlining their many concerns with the influx of people and vehicles to their neighbourhood to use the recreational trails.
They include speeding vehicles through the residential neighbourhood, increased numbers of parked cars lining the streets after COVID-19 protocols limited parking in the parking lot, deer being struck by vehicles, camping and cooking on open air fires in the trail system’s parking lot and loud noises at all times of the day and night.
At North Cowichan’s council meeting, Coun. Christopher Justice noted that the use of forests within the municipality for biking and hiking has has seen a dramatic increase over the past few years.
He said outdoor sports are becoming more popular in general, but the increasing use of the Mount Tzouhalem trails is being supported and encouraged by North Cowichan which built trails and installed infrastructure there, including signage and a bathroom.
“In our parks and trails master plan, it states that one of our three mountains is to become a mountain bike and nature-based tourist attraction, and it has been successful it would seem,” Justice said.
“We have seen an increase in local recreational use of our forests, and also an increase in large groups coming from out of town to use them as well. COVID-19 may have exacerbated the problems as well, but it’s not the root cause. As the residents have pointed out, a number of problems have come with this increased usage.”
Some of the suggestions the residents made to help solve the problems include having resident-only parking on the streets, installing user fees for visitors to the trails, removing North Cowichan’s signage and advertising from the trail system and closing access to the trails from the area altogether.
North Cowichan CAO Ted Swabey said staff will prepare a report that will attempt to respond to the neighbours’ concerns and give options to council on the best way to approach them.
The report will presented and debated at a future council meeting.
“It’s a step by step process, but I’m hopeful the problems will be dealt with in the end,” Wood said.
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