Conservancy group weighs in on bike controversy

Andrew Robinson
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11-acre property in Maddox Cove includes East Coast Trail

A not-for-profit organization that owns land in Maddox Cove covering a small portion of the East Coast Trail (ECT) is not interested in a company’s proposal to use it for mountain bike tours.

Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) is a private land-conservation organization that aims to protect natural diversity.

In a letter addressed to Sacred Rides dated July 8, NCC aired its concerns about “Ride the Rock” tours. Cape Race Cultural Adventures Inc. operates the local Sacred Rides franchise.

NCC’s 11-acre property will reportedly be crossed on those tours.


Biking causes greater impact

“Mountain biking will cause a greater impact than foot traffic on our Nature Reserve and we are concerned this activity will disrupt the local ecosystem, including widening the path and disrupting the vegetation,” wrote Lanna Campbell, program manager for NCC’s operations in Newfoundland and Labrador.

NCC acquired the land in 2011 and has a signed agreement with the East Coast Trail Association (ECTA) to permit its inclusion in the trail system.



“NCC and the East Coast Trail Association have a signed agreement to continue the safe use of this trail network through our private property, with the understanding the trail is to be used for foot traffic only,” wrote Campbell. “Hiking is considered a low-impact recreational activity, and does not pose much risk to the Maddox Cove Nature Reserve.”

A message posted last Friday to the wall of the ECT’s Facebook page was intended to serve as a safety advisory for hikers, warning that mountain bike tours were scheduled to take place throughout the weekend, as well as later this summer in August and early September.

ECTA president Randy Murphy has since told The Telegram he has concerns about hikers sharing the trail with mountain bikers.

An ECTA news release also stated the organization wants the trail to be for hikers only.

Andrew Holland, NCC’s communications and government relations officer for Atlantic Canada, told The Telegram Wednesday that when it rallied public support to help NCC obtain the land, it did so with permanent protection and public use in mind.

“People have entrusted their dollars to the Nature Conservancy of Canada to buy this land for permanent conservation, so our role is to safeguard it. We want people to enjoy the land … but it’s not intended to be an area where there is this type of activity that could potentially degrade the habitat.”

The Telegram asked Holland if the mountain bike issue could result in NCC excluding the land from the ECT.

“I don’t know,” he responded. “We’ve yet to have any conversations with the event organizers, because, unfortunately, they didn’t reach out to us, and I don’t know why that is. But we don’t own a big chunk of land on the East Coast Trail.”

NCC hopes the company can find somewhere else to hold its rides.

“We don’t have anything against them, and we wish them the very best,” said Holland. “We just feel that maybe they should look at other alternatives for a site to do this activity.”

NCC learned about the tours directly from ECTA. The trail association has no legal right to keep bikes off the trail, nor does the provincial government. Representatives from the ECTA, the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation and Sacred Rides will reportedly meet in the near future.

Organizations: NCC, East Coast Trail Association, Cape Race Cultural Adventures Maddox Cove Nature Reserve Department of Tourism

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, Maddox

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Recent comments

  • Ken Sooley, CapeRace Cultural Adventures
    July 17, 2014 - 16:21

    I informed Lana Campbell of the NCC on July 9th that Sacred Rides/CapeRace would not be conducting rides on their property. See attached email. This is just one of many organizations I had to contact to dispel incorrect information passed on by the East Coast Trail Association. ------- EAMIL: From: Ken Sooley Subject: Fwd: NCC Trail Cycling Concerns Date: July 9, 2014 at 9:37:01 AM EDT To: FYI Ken -------------------------------------------- Begin forwarded message: From: Ken Sooley Subject: NCC Trail Cycling Concerns Date: July 9, 2014 at 11:03:18 AM GMT-2:30 To: Geralyn Christmas Cc: Carmela Murphy , Juanita Keel-Ryan Hi Geralyn, Thank you for your letter. Mike Bcric is on vacation in a remote area this week and has limited access to email. I understand your concern based on Randy Murphy’s note to you. He has misinformed you of any intent by Sacred Rides to ride on your property. They will not be riding on NCC property. It is important to note that trail cycling has been scientifically proven not to be any more damaging to the environment than hikers are. Trail design accompanied by a management plan has been widely recognized and accepted as the key factor to be considered when addressing economic and environmental sustainability of recreational trails. Parks Canada manages significant tracts of land including many areas that have environmental sensitivities, and they have implemented a national management plan that allows for recreational mixed use of their trails. There are now over 200km of mixed-use trails in Jaspar National Park alone and have reported great success in other parks. This migration of foot trails to mixed use trails to accept bicycles began over fifteen years ago. Ample information dispelling the idea that bicycles are a threat to the environment is widely available and organizations such as Parks Canada have offered to relate their success to those that have a desire too understand the environmental situation. I have attached one such scientific study conducted in by the University of Guelph that makes a clear case that damage to the environment by boots and bicycles is near-equivalent. Another good example is the Forestry Commission of Scotland. This group advises and implements forestry policy to protect and expand Scotland's forests and to increase their value to society and the environment. They have embraced the mixed trail concept and widely promote trail cycling throughout their national forests and coastlines. Trail cycling is quickly becoming a common and popular family recreational activity and is replacing the 1980’s image of the aggressive mountain biker damaging trails and riding without respect. Randy Murphy has attended the Best Practices Mission on recreational mixed trail use and it’s positive impact on communities and understands this movement. I trust I have satisfied your concern about Sacred Rides riding on your property. They will not be. I’d be happy to discuss the above with you in person, and can provide much more scientific information on the positive impacts of bicycle use of recreational trails should the need arise. Regards, Ken Sooley CAPERACE CULTURAL ADVENTURES

  • Anna
    July 17, 2014 - 12:33

    Does Terry French know he is the Minister of Tourism? This should never have gotten this far, surely he should have called a meeting between both parties before this.

  • Put up or shut up
    July 17, 2014 - 12:20

    ''The trail association has no legal right to keep bikes off the trail, nor does the provincial government. '' In other words, yawn. This is just a bunch of elitist whiners doing what they do best - nattering and preaching.

  • Mike Gehue
    July 17, 2014 - 11:42

    As a memeber of the public, this debate between users is undoubtably biased. To date, all arguments against conjunctive trail use have simply been opinionated statements. If you are to put forward a claim that mountain bikes destroy the trails, it would only be appropriate that scientific data should reflect this. The same principle applies to the safety concerns; to say the probability of collision increases should again be reflected with factual data. This debacle is merely a personal opinion covered in blank statements. The trail organization does not offer a strong counter argument and has been trying to set the tone of their argument through political and organizational power and have not been approaching the matter with any means to negotiate. I realize that some of the debated items are difficult to assign theoretical number values to but to put forth a claim that a mountain bike is far more destructive than hiking needs to be proven and without this backup the claim has no weight. It's evident that the people in power feel uneasy about the idea of change and their quick solution to the idea of change is to blatantly refuse any attempt. Societies need to adapt to grow, remaining stagnant is just humans resisting change and growth. Returning to the comments about the ecosystem; a case study outlining the effects of mountain bike trails on local ecosystems would reveal the truth. If anyone outside the mountain bike community has seen the trails that Jarrett has built, they would undoubtably agree that the conditions and maintenance of these trails is superb as apposed to some of the parts of the ECT. As far as a maintenance perspective, the ECT should note the strong advantage they would gain by permitting the use of maintain bike usage as this comes directly with volunteers who would gladly maintain their trails.

    • Jay
      July 17, 2014 - 14:23

      I love this post! Yes, let's apply for a government grant to study this for two years while the trail is beaten down. In the mean time take a tape measure and hit the 'bike' trails around town like those in the white hills to see the wear that happens. Also, Are you saying that the probability of hiker / biker collisions needs factual data if there are more bikes speeding down the trail. Really? If you put more traffic on a road, let say the outer ring, some of it moving much faster than the rest, what happens? Maybe it's me but common sense would say nothing good. Or maybe we need to study what happens when a bike running down a hill at speed hits a hiker walking up so we have 'factual data' to clearly delineate the amount of injuries they, both biker and hiker would incur. Yes, I'm being facetious as I truly would love to know where anyone would get this 'scientific data'. On a serious note, I enjoy both biking and hiking and I don't ride the trail out of respect for the hikers. By the way, who is Jarret? ...emmm, Something tells me that you might have more than a passing or vested interested than the 'general public', wink, wink, nod nod.

  • Alex
    July 17, 2014 - 11:31

    Having mountain bikers using the trail is very damaging to NL tourism in the long term. With repeated use, the trail will be turned into a boggy one, vegetation gone, board walk being damaged, turning off hikers from and outside of our province. Many hikers too do come from Europe and other provinces just to hike our beautiful untouched coastline every year. It is one of the reasons the East Coast Trail is being named as one of the top trails in the world by National Georgraphic . A good analogy would be having fracking around the Gros Morne National Park , the threat of which was denounced by National heritage sites. Tourism money from hikers staying here for the trail far outweighs the amount of tourism money brought in by the potential bikers. The worst is that once the trail is damaged, and the bikers are gone, the bill to maintain these trails will be left upon the shoulder of the people in this province. In Whistler BC, I have seen bike trails separated from the hiking trials. Unless that is possible and a separate trail or a dual track system built and maintained by the biking groups who bank on the biking tourists, otherwise we may as well give another resource away to bikers tourism group from inside or outside our province.

  • Paul
    July 17, 2014 - 11:03

    if the concern is for the impact on the environment, that hiking has little impact but mountain biking has more impact...just how much more impact does it have? how much wider would bikes make the trail? is the trail simply the natural ground with a path worn into it or is it gravelled and boardwalked ? seems to me like saying 2 on a scale of 10 is acceptable but 4 is not... the other thing is this, is there a clear mandate for the usage of the east coast trail? how much of it is 'controlled' by the trail association? note its called a TRAIL association ,not a HIKING TRAIL association... I ride MB on trails frequently, as do others, including some annual races. there is no significant damage to the trail from this biking activity.

  • Pure Greed
    July 17, 2014 - 10:18

    Once again someone wants to make a quick buck without having to do any work. Surely there must be other places in this great province where this type of activity could be developed and promoted .... i.e. Clarenville White Hills.

    • Paul
      July 17, 2014 - 11:05

      looks like a couple of issues here, it hit the media over this tour operation but the ban we are talking about affects everyone who does or would like to ride those trails.

    • Mike Brcic
      July 18, 2014 - 10:59

      Hello Pure Greed, please see Sacred Rides' official statement regarding the East Coast Trail: There has been an incredible amount of misinformation spread about this issue, both by the ECTA and the media, who are not doing their fact-checking. We did not and will not, in fact, ride on NCC Property.

  • Cam
    July 17, 2014 - 08:53

    I've volunteered and donated to the trail over the years. I donate because I enjoy using the trail and want to give back. I did not donate to have it used for other purposes or see it destroyed by bikes. I''ve done lots of biking over the years including some trail ridding. Without a doubt trail ridding causes more damage and has much more impact than hiking. Suggesting otherwise is simply a lie. In a perfect world biking wouldn't negatively impact the trail, but it does. In a perfect world all bikers would be able to avoid hikers (including small children and pets), but that can’t be guaranteed. The solution here is not to allow bikes on the trail. There is lots of land out there. Start your own association - East Coast Bikers Association (ECBA) – build, maintain, and fundraise for a bikes only trail system. I promise I won’t hike on it and I’d be happy to see it used exclusively by pedal pushers.

  • Jay
    July 17, 2014 - 07:28

    Unfortunately bikes to have a bigger impact. You only need to see some of the trails they use and the deep grooves and and path widening caused by repeated use. Also, Both myself and friends have volunteered to maintain the 'hiking' trail in the past, not the 'biking' trail. Why would the assoc. fund raise and pay for materials to maintain it only to have bikes potentially destroying it. I for one am not going to volunteer in the future if it's torn up by a business making a buck of someone else's work. Lastly, if they want to stop it, organize a group hike of about 50 'durable' people, send a group of 5 out every 5 to 10 minutes when the bike run is going and make them stop. Paying customers are going to get annoyed real fast if they have to stop every five minutes or so for hikers. (I said durable people because given some of the trails it may not be easy to stop on a bike, depending on the skill level).

    • Chris Jerrett
      July 18, 2014 - 09:13

      Unfortunately this has turned to pointless discussion. The MTB users in NL and the dept. of Tourim want to open 15km of trail that is 50% double track. We have offered to inject $20000 to convert sections to accommodate new users. MTBs do not like out and backs or point to point we like loops. We do not want access to the ECT. We are also proposing that we are giving access to lands on the coastline to build new trails with new money. Our group simple reached out to the hiking group to discuss how we could work together to build and maintain these new trails. Now that the hiking group has flatly denied to speck we have gone over there heads and will begin discussions with the towns and cities in the coming mouths to partner in trail development. End of story. As for the NCC blanket statement that is a embarrassment to nature lovers and reflect similar behavior to groups like PETA and Greenpeace, using misinformation to grand stand.