Mountain bikes not compatible
Government initially evolved to protect public assets, like parks and public lands, establish and enforce public decision-making processes, and work for the benefit of the general public good. People wanted the government to be accountable to them, and be responsive to their involvement and scrutiny. It is now obvious to many of Penticton’s citizens that we haven’t had, and don’t have, either good or effective government. A big part of this failure is a city hall-council-mayor that feels entitled to hand things that belong to all of us over to special, select, minority interests, and then make sure they build a defensive wall around themselves and their chosen favourites so taxpayers and citizens are kept at bay.
We have too many examples already in this city; A corporate tourism association supported by taxpayers dollars, allowed to collect and spend their own tax. Imagine if that $4-500,000 was available to the parks department to keep city beaches and parks clean, safe and well managed! Or the chunk it would take out of the much-advertised infrastructure deficit! Or how it would benefit public management of big-block city park lands like Campbell Mountain and Three Blind Mice as natural areas for our enjoyment and their intrinsic value, as wildlife (semi) refuges and for equal access by all citizens for careful and respectful use.
Then we have Skaha Park, where “our” city Hall allows corporate interests to pay a measly $4 a square foot for waterfront privileges that cost 3 to 6 times that on private lands. That nothing short of criminal. Hundreds of thousands of dollars that should be paid to taxpayers will be lost. Quite a sweet deal, but not for citizens.
And what about the Three Blind Mice bike park now “managed” by mountain bikers? Guess what they pay the city for an entire square kilometre of public land! You’ve got more jingle in your pocket right now. Hell of a deal! Who wouldn’t love that! And they extracted a license from city hall to carve up the land with trails and childish little ramps and boardwalks, all while spreading noxious and invasive plants, running off people who walk, and displacing wildlife. Our public lands are fabulous places that don’t need trinkets to entertain people.
Now that same bunch wants Campbell Mountain. There are a lot of negative aspects to mountain biker behaviour and thinking, but one that characterizes them is rapid boredom with a trail system – they quickly and inevitably want something new. Want evidence? Three Blind Mice isn’t good enough anymore, so now they want to take over Campbell Mountain. This constant demand and expectation of more and more originates because most mountain biking activity is based on speed, thrills, competition, and challenge, all of which dissipate with repetition. Drastically different from those citizens who enjoy the natural world for its own value and the never ending satisfaction they get from it.
If society, through our government, ever decides there are legitimate reasons to privatize management of our land or water – and I see those options as exceptionally rare – then private management should pay a super premium for that control and privilege. Exploiting public resources should result in substantial economic and social return to taxpayers!
Try sharing a trail with a 200-pound mountain biker, encased in a helmet and fixated on the trail, hurtling down the path directly at you at 30 or even 40 kph. The reality, and evidence, is that mountain biking/ bikers cause immediate displacement and harassment of other trail and land users, eventually, often quickly driving them away; first, because they cant enjoy the place, and second, they fear for their safety. Try enjoying a walk on that trail if you have your kids, your family, your mother with you, if you’re a group of seniors, or if you’re a legitimate trail user just out to listen to the birds or the whisper of the wind, watch wildlife or the clouds drift by, enjoy the fabulous view over the valley, just leisurely soak up the ambiance of the natural landscape, or are simply trying to escape the stress of every day and work related life. Cant be done! Incidentally, mountain bikers don’t , and cant, do any of these things. They cant hear anything but their bike and its clatter, can barely look at anything except their handlebars or they’ll crack their head or break a leg, and they seem to think they automatically have the right of way (after all, they know they’re on a vehicle, even though they vehemently deny that). Only bikers and the biker industry call that sharing!
The biker industry and its advocates are loaded with “alternative facts” – we all know what those are worth! Claims that they want to make the “trails safer,” or “protect” Campbell mountain from the “free for all”, which exists only because mtn bikers make a habit of going wherever they feel like and rattling down slopes that no machine or vehicles should be on. It’s bikers that create a free for all, trashing vegetation and soil, and running off hikers – they’ve done it to me and I’ve watched as they’ve done the same to mule deer! I know hikers that have quit using trails they’ve enjoyed for years because bikers have invaded that space.
Bikers and the industry are routinely enveloped in a “fact free” zone when it comes to environmental and social conflicts. They employ willful distortion of reality (more alternative facts!) to con the ideologically gullible – like our city council or staff. They claim they don’t want to exclude others, but who else wants to and can safely use, let alone enjoy dangerous trails and threats from machines? At least drivers on Main street have the integrity to make it understood its not safe (or legal) to saunter on foot or dally or have lunch on the edge or in a blind zone on the driving lane on a road!
The never ending spiel by bikers about how they “improve” the land, “secure” access, do maintenance, keep trails “safe”, and the incessant bragging about volunteer work and hours is the equivalent of an oil company bragging about building a road through a roadless valley, or a timber company bragging about the clearcut watershed that’s now “managed”, “improved” and accessible – aren’t we generous, look what we’ve done for you!. In mountain biker parlance, keeping the trails safe and passable means major engineering, digging up roots and vegetation, building 3 and 4 foot wide “roads” (curves are even wider), riprap, armoring, and then of course, building all the juvenile gimmicks that might be fine on private land or in a gravel pit, or on PIB lands (try that one!) but have no place in a Park or on public land.
Of course, they want control and things “made simpler”. This is another deviation from accountability, allowing them to take over the landscape, and camouflaging the extensive environmental damage they do by hiding behind “hey, the City says its legal”! That also fits in nicely with their monotonous denial of a long list of impacts they impose on a landscape. Access for all? I say by all means, they (bikers) can walk just like anyone else!
A weak city hall and council is vulnerable to special interest pressure and can strip the rights and property from citizens in devious ways, from granting leases to privatizing management.
If I were to advise the people of Penticton I would tell them we need to get a grip on city hall and council/mayor soon, before they sell us out completely.
Dr. Brian L. Horejsi, Penticton