A Place to Write Home about: Mountain Biking in the North Okanagan



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BC Parks guest blog post by Dudley Coulter, North Okanagan Cycling Society

Hailing from the flatlands of Ontario, it was hard to imagine a place like this existed; a place that not only recognizes trail building as an invaluable asset to the community, but encouraged it. Mountain biking is not only alive in the Greater Vernon area – it is thriving.

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Noble Canyon Trail Day at Kalamalka Park

The fun doesn’t stop off the bike either. North Okanagan Cycling Society (NOCS) volunteers and other trail users put in more than 25 trail days last season throughout three main areas in the region; Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park; Ellison Provincial Park and; Silver Star Provincial Park. Typically, trail days consist of mountain bike enthusiasts and other trail users, young and old, working together for the betterment of our community’s outdoor recreational experience. Trail users are educated on how to build new trails and maintain old trails so that they are sustainable and up to the ‘Whistler Standard’. This practice not only ensures park users are safe, but also that the trails are made for reduced environmental impact and longevity that allows them to be enjoyed by generations to come.

At ‘Ellison’, parallel to Lake Okanagan, families can stay in the campground and ride beginner to intermediate trails right from the tent. On the shores of Greater Vernon’s other pond, Kalamalka Lake, lies ‘Kal Park’, a local favourite where locals can take in the lake and valley views from the ‘Lookout Loop’ after work or venture up to ‘Big Ed’ with friends for a truly imaginable ride. High above town at Silver Star Provincial Park lays the newly built ‘Sovereign’ network of trails that allow riders to feast their eyes on the bountiful alpine woodland and its (wild) inhabitants.

Kalamalka Park Trail Day
Kalamalka Park Trail Day

Although the eyes of NOCS are set on a wide variety of new trails for the future, one loop is elevated above the rest. ‘Honest Ed’ is a loop that mountain bikers will travel from far and wide to ride. The loop will utilize popular existing trails with the addition of new climbs and descents to avoid any FSR for an epic, ear to ear grinning ride that will have people gossiping from Vernon to Vancouver and beyond. This loop treats riders to breathtaking valley views and challenging trails to brag about.

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In 2015, the North Okanagan Cycling Society (NOCS) saw more than 600 members, attracted 120 youth into the Sprockids Program and saw 25 Thursday Night Toonie Rides take place. With over 3500 hours of documented volunteer labour last season, it is no wonder why the mountain bike culture in Greater Vernon is so alive.

North Okanagan Cycling Society (NOCS), is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing positive trail experiences for mountain bikers in the North Okanagan. NOCS builds, maintains, protects and is an advocate for trails in the area. NOCS is the voice for mountain biking in the North Okanagan.

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2 responses to “A Place to Write Home about: Mountain Biking in the North Okanagan

  1. Joe

    Nice writing buddy. Vernon and NOCS have both hit the jackpot having you aboard as volunteer and writing about the activities too. You’ve come along way in this sport from the raised boardwalks and tiny jumps you built next to your old house in Marathon.

  2. Mike

    Why don’t I see any recognition of the fact that trail building and trail maintenance destroy wildlife habitat???

    Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1996: http://mjvande.info/mtb10.htm . It’s dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don’t have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else — ON FOOT! Why isn’t that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking….

    A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it’s not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.info/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

    Mountain bikers also love to build new trails – legally or illegally. Of course, trail-building destroys wildlife habitat – not just in the trail bed, but in a wide swath to both sides of the trail! E.g. grizzlies can hear a human from one mile away, and smell us from 5 miles away. Thus, a 10-mile trail represents 100 square miles of destroyed or degraded habitat, that animals are inhibited from using. Mountain biking, trail building, and trail maintenance all increase the number of people in the park, thereby preventing the animals’ full use of their habitat.

    Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it’s NOT!). What’s good about THAT?

    To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

    In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: http://mjvande.info/mtb_dangerous.htm .

    For more information: http://mjvande.info/mtbfaq.htm .

    The common thread among those who want more recreation in our parks is total ignorance about and disinterest in the wildlife whose homes these parks are. Yes, if humans are the only beings that matter, it is simply a conflict among humans (but even then, allowing bikes on trails harms the MAJORITY of park users — hikers and equestrians — who can no longer safely and peacefully enjoy their parks).

    The parks aren’t gymnasiums or racetracks or even human playgrounds. They are WILDLIFE HABITAT, which is precisely why they are attractive to humans. Activities such as mountain biking, that destroy habitat, violate the charter of the parks.

    Even kayaking and rafting, which give humans access to the entirety of a water body, prevent the wildlife that live there from making full use of their habitat, and should not be allowed. Of course those who think that only humans matter won’t understand what I am talking about — an indication of the sad state of our culture and educational system.