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28-Sep: A decision this Fall on non-motorized use of Mt. Gardner?

Our email to the Minister of FLNRO

On the 9th of August this year we sent an email to Honourable Katrine Coroy, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, with our second request (our first was in June 2020) to designate Mount Gardner for non-motorized use, and stating:

“This email represents our second request to the Ministry, and our first direct appeal to you, to designate Mount Gardner, located on Bowen Island, for non-motorized use.

In June 2020 we wrote to Mr. Tom Blackbird, District Recreation Officer in your Ministry’s Chilliwack District, asking for Mount Gardner to be placed off limits for motorized vehicles (a copy of our letter is attached to this email message). It is now more than a year later and nothing has been done. 

Dirt bikes and ATVs continue to be used on the mountain’s trails, vying for space with horse riders and hikers, and shattering the peace and tranquility of the mountain. The trails have now been added to at least one popular smartphone app, “Trailforks”, that promotes their use for dirt biking. Despite being able to enjoy several kilometres of challenging trails on another part of Bowen Island, there is a small group of individuals on the island who continue to insist that Mount Gardner should be theirs to use as well. And all this is in direct opposition to the wishes of:

  1. The hundreds of island residents who wish to hike on Mount Gardner and enjoy the peace of nature;
  2. The more than 170 members of the Bowen Island Conservancy, which is dedicated to the conservation of the island’s natural environment;
  3. The numerous hikers who come from the mainland to use Mount Gardner’s trails, so that they may return home refreshed and relaxed after their time in nature;
  4. Our local Mayor and Council, who have expressed their desire to see motorized activities on the mountain prohibited.

Our organization’s views, and the views of the majority of island residents, have been made very clear to our Mayor and Council, and to Mr. Blackbird. Assertions that we are just a “small group”, coming from the group of individuals who wish to see continued dirt bike and ATV access to Mount Gardner, have no basis in fact. The fact is that they are the small group. And, suggestions that the motorized vehicle users are the only group of local residents able and willing to perform trail maintenance work on the mountain are absurd: the Bowen Island Conservancy, and the Bowen Island Trail Society, are two local organizations that are certainly capable of carrying out regular trail maintenance and are doing so on a continual basis all over the island.

Permitting continued motorized access to Mount Gardner is a blatant disregard for the local community’s wishes. It will continue the degradation of the mountain’s natural environment, and negatively impact the enjoyment of the large number of people who now hike on the mountain, to accommodate a very few dirt bikers. We again urge you to designate, as soon as possible, the Mount Gardner Crown Lands for non-motorized use only.”

FLNRO’s reply

This week, on the 28th of September, we received a reply from Matt Austin, Assistant Deputy Minister. His email reads:

Thank you for your recent email regarding the proposed motorized use restriction for the Mount Gardner Recreation Site. As the Assistant Deputy Minister for the Integrated Resource Operations Division, I have been asked to respond.

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development has received requests from the Bowen Island Municipality and many island residents advocating for the prohibition of all motorized recreation within the Mount Gardner Recreation Site.

The site was established in 2018 to provide a well-managed and enjoyable recreation experience for the public. It is about 900 hectares in size and contains about 20 kilometres of multi-use trail. The Province of British Columbia is aware the larger user group is non-motorized and has advocated for restricting motorized recreation. We are also aware of a low level of motorized use within the site for many decades.

A decision restricting public use of Crown land is complex and controversial. Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) must carefully consider if enacting a rule restricting use is justified and the most effective solution.

A decision process is underway. Once completed the outcome and supporting rationale will be shared with Bowen Island Municipality and other known stakeholders. RSTBC expects that a decision will be made in fall 2021.

RSTBC staff will continue to work with our stakeholders and recreational user groups to provide a well-managed and enjoyable experience for all users.”