by Doug Zorn
About 50 people gathered at the Bluejoint Rec Site Thursday for the grand opening of the “Trails of the North Fork” project.
An initiative of the Grand Forks ATV Club, the club partnered with National Trails Coalition and Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation to complete “Trails of the North Fork,“ which saw Bluejoint Rec Site completed and sign-age erected over approximately 500 kilometres of trails in the North Fork region.
The Grand Forks ATV Club has been proactive in fulfilling its vision, which was set out when it was formed in 2008.
At that time there was a movement to create a Wildlife Management Plan for the Gilpin, Morrissey, Stewart Creek areas. This area includes a large number of hectares of south-facing slopes, the Gilpin Grassland Provincial Park, grazed rangeland areas, multiple forest tenure holders and in addition is used by many different groups as a recreation area.
The vision of the GFATV Club is to be active in preserving the environment and wildlife habitat, protecting our rights and privileges to access Crown land, promoting safe and responsible operation of ORVs, planning events and organizing rides and meetings for every trail enthusiast to attend.
The club is dedicated to promoting safe riding on marked trails for all riders, youth and seniors alike. The majority of our members want to get out, ride and see the beautiful areas in British Columbia on recognized trails in a safe and responsible manner.
The club’s membership over the years since 2008 has grown to approximately 100 members, supplied many riders with a certified ATV safety course, hold many community gatherings promoting safe and responsible use of the regions outdoors, presented guest speakers on wildlife , invasive species control and regulations pertaining to the use of Forest Service and non-status roads.
In 2013 the Boundary Country Trails Agreement was created. This agreement is the first in B.C. to be signed by many trail users, municipal governments and others promoting collaboration and cooperation when making decisions on trail issues in our region.
The GFATV Club brought all partners who were interested together in the fall of 2013 with the intent of developing an educational project in the Morrissey, Gilpin and Stewart Creek areas.
There had been problems in these areas with users not knowing where private property boundaries were located and regulations on trapping rights. The trails were not marked and there were many species at risk in the area that users were not aware of.
The area is used heavily with many attributes but the club felt there was a very large educational component missing and that over 90 per cent of the users would respect the area’s sensitivity and diversity if they were made aware of what the issues were. The partners agreed a proposal should be developed and presented.
The club felt that first there could be areas created (staging sites) where outdoor toilet facilities could be provided, educational material could be placed, equipment safely unloaded and loaded, where users could park safely off the road, and awareness seminars could be held.
There are many Forest Service roads old and new in the proposed area with no signage for users to know where to go, what areas are sensitive, what times of the year wildlife needs more awareness, how users can support conservation efforts, and many more education opportunities could be presented by other interest groups once staging areas where developed.
In spring of 2014 a proposal was presented to interested partners and was well received by all that attended. Public meetings were then held for comment and the proposal was modified to reflect public concerns.
In early April and May other public events where held showing maps of the proposed trails and allowing for more input and participation by the many partners and the community.
With the confirmed investment from the partners, the GFATV Club was able to secure a Job Creation Grant through Ministry of Social Development and Social. The funding was to develop trails, signage, develop three staging areas, place five heritage benches and clear over 134 kilometres of existing Forest Service roads.
In 2015 with the partners help there will be educational workshops for the many users motorized and non-motorized promoting respect for the wildlife, environment and private property as well as different tenure holders in the area.
Current membership of the club is 100.
The Grand Forks ATV Club continues to feel that being proactive in the management of our natural resources is far better than waiting until the problems are insurmountable. There will always be those who are part of the problem but we feel that through education we can affect positive change.