Motorized recreation in the Thompson Rivers Natural Resource District has continued to grow, and so has the need to mitigate its impact on the environment, and to protect ecologically sensitive areas. The area extends from Ashcroft and Logan Lake in the south to Wells Gray Park and Blue River in the north, including the communities of Ashcroft, Barriere, Blue River, Cache Creek, Chase, Little Fort, Logan Lake, Savona and Vavenby.
A strategic planning process was initiated in early 2014 to ensure that the cumulative effects of Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) activities such as ORV use and dispersed camping, were managed in a sustainable way. ORVs are used in B.C. for work, leisure and commuting purposes, and include snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (aka “quads”), off-road motorcycles (i.e., dirt bikes) and utility terrain vehicles (e.g., “Argos”, “Rhinos” and “Razors”), as well as smaller on-highway motor vehicles (e.g. jeeps, trucks and SUVs).
The development strategy was led by Thompson Rivers Natural Resource District staff in partnership with BC Parks staff and representatives from the Skeetchestn Indian Band, and had two guiding principles:
- Allowing public access while protecting resource values; and
- Managed trails designed, developed or maintained to be sustainable.
Interested members of the public were invited to complete an online survey about off-road vehicle use in the Thompson Rivers Natural Resource District. Survey results were then used to inform the Thompson Rivers District Recreation Strategy that will help protect ecologically sensitive Crown land areas while maintaining sustainable off-road vehicle use.
August 1 to September 8, 2014
547 people responded to the online survey. From the survey results it was determined by the Steering Committee that there were areas being used for ORV activities that did not have legally established trail networks, including: Noble Lake, Barnhartvale/Scuitto, Lafarge and Inks lake/Chuwhels.
The survey showed that ORV riders are interested in having input about ORV riding opportunities in the Thompson Rivers Natural Resource District. It also confirmed that there are areas of concern around impact from ORV use on grasslands and wetlands. Some key findings:
- Survey respondents were predominantly recreational ORV riders (76.65%);
- The majority of the ORV riders thought that the riding opportunities in the Thompson Rivers District were adequate, however, since a number of the trails are not legally established there is still much work to do to resolve conflicts, protect the environment and ensure sustainable ORV riding opportunities;
- Damage to grasslands and wetlands, and erosion due to hill climbs were the main areas of concern;
- The concept of set aside areas for ORV riding was strongly supported;
- Of the ORV users 66% were willing to volunteer to maintain and clean up ORV trails; and
- The majority of respondents supported the idea of user fees for managed sustainable trail systems if the fees collected were to be allocated back to projects for the user group.
Input leads to action:
As a result of the survey, an initial contract was launched in the fall of 2014 to inventory trail networks within these areas to determine their ecological sustainability. This field work helped to determine trail locations and assessed whether trails were sustainable, required work to become sustainable, or should be closed. In concert with the field work inventory, work began to investigate what other land designations and overlapping Crown tenures existed within those unauthorized trail networks.
Since the results of the survey indicated that generally the public was unaware of where to access applicable information regarding ORV use, motorized closures, and other educational information, the Steering Committee developed a district webpage that included all these pertinent links.
In December 2014, an Advisory Committee was formed to ensure that there was meaningful input from all the stakeholder groups. The purpose of this committee was to provide feedback and recommendations to the Steering Committee for consideration.
On March 30, 2015 the Steering Committee released their Off-Road Vehicle Recreation Survey Recommendation Paper with 17 recommendations based on their background research, First Nations involvement and stakeholder engagement.
On November 1, 2015, new safety laws and mandatory registration commenced by regulation under the
Off-Road Vehicle Act (the Act) to encourage safe and more responsible ORV riding in B.C. The benefits of a modern registration scheme include the ability to assist officers in identifying reckless ORV operators that endanger others, harm animals or damage the environment (registration data is now available 24/7). It will also help officers to better track down stolen ORVs.
There are also more effective enforcement tools under the Act; violation ticket fines increased for offences such as careless operation of an ORV and damage to property from $115 to $368, and operating an unregistered ORV on Crown land increased from $58 to $230. ICBC may also refuse to issue a driver’s or vehicle license to a person who does not pay a fine under the Act.
For more information about the Off-Road Vehicle Act and its implementation, please refer to the ministry’s ORV Management Framework website.