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.
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.”