Motorcycle club ousted out of popular Metro Vancouver park

The Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Committee has refused to renew the lease for a group of motorcycle enthusiasts that has maintained and used trails in the Belcarra region of Metro Vancouver for 50 years. 

David Cameron, director of sustainability for the Canada Pacific Trials Association, says his group wasn’t consulted on the renewal of the lease and never had a chance to defend itself. 

“We were shocked at the decision,” Cameron said. “We had absolutely no idea that there was anything wrong because they never stated anything.”

Trials motorcycle riding is a sport that involves participants navigating obstacle courses through various terrain. Riders are scored on how little they touch the ground with their feet while maintaining course on a slim, light style of motorcycle.

The Canada Pacific Trials Association says the Belcarra region is known around the world as one of the best spots for trials riding. (Canada Pacific Trials Association)

The association first began building trails in the Belcarra and Ioco regions in 1971, when the area was still Crown land and had yet to be established as a park.

It currently has about 200 members and, before the pandemic, hosted competitions about once a month and international competitions on occasion. Members, including national champion Christy Richards, regularly train on the 100-kilometre network of trails, which they also maintain. 

Cameron says the decision cuts the association’s access to about half of its trails. He’s not sure if they’ll still be able to host international competitions. 

He also doesn’t know how the association will make that up given that land is at a premium and trials riders are being increasingly squeezed out by mountain bikers and hikers. 

High demand for park space

John McEwen, chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks Committee and mayor of the neighbouring Village of Anmore, says the committee’s decision was prompted by the booming popularity of the Belcarra region and the environmental degradation caused by the motorcycles. 

“It’s really unfortunate because I know that this group has been there a long time,” McEwen said.

“There’s such a demand on these parks that we need to expand and to be able to facilitate everyone, not just a select few.”

Belcarra Regional Park welcomes about 1.3 million visitors a year, McEwen says. The committee wants to further develop the park, he says, and recently entered into a cultural planning agreement with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation to do so. 

McEwen says the board also based its decision on an internal report that found serious environmental degradation in the ecosystem the trails crisscross. 

The report says “the intensive use and resultant damage within the area is inconsistent with Metro Vancouver Regional Parks mandate to protect significant regional natural areas and provide opportunities for people to access nature.”

The Canada Pacific Trials Association says trials riding is a family sport, and its members range in age from 3 to 83. (Canada Pacific Trials Association)

In February 2020, the Metro Vancouver board authorized staff to give the association two years’ notice to vacate. The Canada Pacific Trials Association is scheduled to respond to the decision at a parks committee meeting this upcoming week. 

In its letter to the committee, the association says “it is evident that this decision was based on misleading and inaccurate information” and asks for a formal consultation process. 

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