Province takes stance against bikes on ECT trails

Laura Howells
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The Department of Tourism has taken the position that biking should not be allowed on the East Coast Trail. The issue has been a topic of heated public discussion over the past two weeks, after a private company scheduled a mountain bike tour of trail without the East Coast Trail Association’s (ECTA) permission.

A portion of the East Coast Trail. — File photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The association maintained that biking could not be permitted because of the safety risks it poses for both hikers and bikers. It also says biking can cause damage to the trail, and that the owners of private land on which the trail was built did not give permission for a multi-use trail. However, the Department of Tourism refused to stop the biking tour, saying it would not take sides.

Since the association met with Judith Hearn, Deputy Minister of the Department of Tourism and Recreation on July 23, the government has expressed support for the association’s position.

The government now says it will not encourage or support mountain biking tours on the trail.

Randy Murphy, president of the ECTA, said the talks were positive and co-operative.

“We just explained to them what is best for the trail and the safety of the hikers,” he said. “They confirmed without any shadow of a doubt they are fully supportive of the trail as a pedestrian trail and want to work with the association to seek required protection of the trail over the long term.

“We’re feeling a lot better as opposed to the last two weeks when their position was not clearly defined.”

Murphy says he believes the large amount of media attention surrounding the issue, as well as the many individuals who expressed concern to the government, played a deciding role in their taking a stance.

There is currently no legislation in place that offers any protection of the East Coast Trail. The ECTA has requested a meeting with the premier to discuss future government protection.

“This matter has brought into light the issue of protection ad the need to protect the trail,” said Murphy. “This is not an us and them debate. For us it’s a matter of doing the right thing to protect our pedestrian trail for hikers and to protect an asset that we’ve taken 20 years to build.”

Organizations: Department of Tourism and Recreation

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Recent comments

  • MEC
    July 30, 2014 - 15:19

    Thank you. Finally, some common-sense on the issue. Let's hope we can find more like it in Canada...

  • Monica
    July 30, 2014 - 15:15

    Thank you. Finally, some common-sense on the issue. I hope we will begin to see more like it across Canada.

  • Bob
    July 30, 2014 - 13:19

    I agree with the exclusion of mountain bikers from the East Coast Trail network.I've hiked several trails that permitted mountain bikers and some of these people are flying down the trails at close to 40km/hr or more and they can easily hit a hiker and cause serious injury.My wife and I were almost struck by one last week.He was flying around a turn and I just happened to catch him out of the corner of my eye at the last minute and we had to jump quickly off the trail and hug trees until he passed. It would be similar to being hit by a compact car. Bikers need to develop their own trails.

  • East Coast Trail Hiker
    July 30, 2014 - 12:20

    Yes, I'm afraid this is an amateurish article. An editor should have picked up on the assertion that government has changed its policy regarding mountain biking on the ECT without substantiation. There is no attribution for the statement that 'The government now says it will not encourage or support mountain biking tours on the trail.' Even without attribution, the statement does not validate the headline 'Province takes stance against bikes on ECT trails'. By failing to contact government for verification before publishing the article, the reporter has unwittingly allowed one side of this debate to claim to speak for government. No doubt we will have another article tomorrow quoting someone within government. But that will be a day late and a dollar short.

  • JMAP
    July 30, 2014 - 10:57

    Based on how the ECTA has dealt with this situation and their need for control of the trail, they have lost my support as a fundraiser. The Mountain Biking assoc are mature, nature respecting individuals who wanted use of a very small amount of the trail network and were specific in pointing that out. Instead the ECTA has made it look like they want access to all trails and put their own fear-based spin on it. I have to ask who walkers???? They tried to prevent it at their last Tely Hike, time to get a grip on reality. The "Ocean Trail" belongs to everyone.

  • Mark Reccord
    July 30, 2014 - 08:19

    So, you didn't bother to contact the Department of Tourism to ask them what their stance actually is on this issue and just printed second-hand information from a known biased source (i.e. ECTA)? Ace journalism right there. I'm not saying that the Department didn't say that but rather a media outlet should be getting information straight from the horse's mouth instead of from a stakeholder who has been known to put their own spin on things. On topic, I do think the ECT needs to be protected from things like development, motorized vehicles and absentee landowners claiming property right down to the water line. What it does not need to be protected from is a few mountain bikers on a few sections of the trail.

    • Melissa J.
      July 30, 2014 - 09:16

      Agreed. This is one of those situations where time will be the best judge of what works, what doesn't, what is safe and what isn't. If the biking community acts responsibility - and my experience thus far on other trails is that they do - then there may well be no adverse impact either on the trail or on hikers. There is already a history of use on sections of the trail without reported incidents. No doubt the province will - and should - strongly support hiking as the principal use of the trail. But I don't think it will make any legal attempt to block mountain biking until, and unless, there is evidence that it is necessary.