A North Vancouver mother is starting a petition in a bid to rally support to save her son’s unsanctioned mountain bike trail.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, Candice Majawa’s son, Riley, and about 10 other teenagers from the area, like many others, started looking to the outdoors for an escape.
Majawa, who has lived on the North Shore for 15 years, said Riley and his friends began building bike tracks in the Malaspina Park forest near the Grousewoods neighbourhood to stay closer to home during the height of the pandemic. She said a few of the teenagers, including Riley, had taken the trail building course through the North Shore Mountain Bike Association, and were building in a responsible way.
However, Cooper Quinn, President of NSMBA, said while he didn’t blame the boys for wanting to build trails closer to home during COVID, he wanted to confirm the association did not condone using the knowledge learnt at the academy to build unsanctioned trails.
"The academy specifically discusses permitting and land relationships," he said.
The trail was never approved by the District of North Vancouver and was later discovered by district staff after a person claimed they had almost been hit by a mountain bike while walking in the area.
"If the unauthorized structures and features on the trail are considered a public safety risk, they will be removed to prevent potential accidents," Courtenay Rannard, District of North Vancouver spokesperson, said.
Majawa said her son was devastated after being told by district staff the trails would have to go. She said the trail had been positive for Riley's mental health and "kept him going."
"They have poured hundreds of hours into this trail and it has kept them physically and mentally healthy during a time in the world when everything around them is shutting down," Majawa explained.
Riley, who has been mountain biking since Grade 7, said the trails were “a great escape” from everything that was happening. The 15-year-old said he and his friends began building the trails when they found it increasingly difficult to find transport to the Mount Seymour and Mount Fromme trails, due to COVID transmission fears.
He hoped the district would reconsider demolishing their trails.
While they didn’t initially ask for permission, Majawa said she was now gathering community input to put forth a proposal to the district in the hopes her son and his friends could develop Malaspina Park with district approval.
"We are hoping to create an area that has safe trails for hikers and bikers," she said.
"These trails would be properly signed and include ride-around sections for less advanced bikers and the area between the hiking trails and biking trails would be separate to keep everyone safe.
"We would do this in an environmentally friendly way and take the neighbours' ideas and thoughts for the space into full consideration."
Rannard said district staff had spoken with Majawa and explained the rules, process, regulations, and safety concerns about building unsanctioned mountain bike trails.
“There are certain areas in the district where mountain bike trails are permitted to be built and maintained following rigorous review and collaboration between the district and permitted trail builders,” Rannard said.
"Development of new, authorized trails comes only after lengthy review of environmental, safety, and community perspectives."
Rannard said there had been in an increase of reports of community-made trails since the COVID-19 pandemic began, given that more people were spending time outdoors.
“Residents interested in developing and working on a trail should contact our district parks department to discuss their interest, and staff can help guide them through the correct process,” she said.
The district decommissions unsanctioned mountain bike trails on a priority basis due to environmental and safety concerns for both riders and pedestrians, Rannard said.
Similarly, a track built by kids was demolished by the City of North Vancouver in wooded area between Sutherland Secondary and the Loutet softball park back in May.
Rannard pointed out that the district had created volunteer opportunities to build trails with the NSMBA on Fromme and Seymour mountains and the association could be contacted directly.
Cooper said unsanctioned trails were a result of “people not being able to recreate in the way that they want to in their own neighbourhoods.”
"It highlights deficiency in our systems," he said.
"Working proactively with different user groups to manage the youth is more effective than trying to reactively go about removing all the trails.
"It’s incumbent on us as a community to be providing these opportunities in a responsible way for kids or they’re going to create opportunities for themselves."
Details of the petition to save the Malaspina Park trails will be provided as soon as they're available.
Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.