Welcome to the South Island Mountain Bike Society – Riding in and around Victoria, British Columbia

SIMBS is a not-for-profit organization run by an enthusiastic team of volunteers who advocate for trail access, build sustainable riding areas, hosts events that promote mountain culture and engages the local community to provide an opportunity for everyone to ride.

We are the voice of South Vancouver Islands Mountain Bike Community.

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Agreements, trail building and liability at Hartland Bike Park

The original agreement between CRD/ SIMBS dates back about 20 years so there is a significant history of SIMBs taking responsibility for the trails at Hartland. When the agreement first came out, it was lauded as a major step forward between a land manager and a mountain biking organization, and, for the time it was. IMBA drew peoples attention to it, and other organizations were contacting SIMBS to see how they could go about doing the same. As with most land manager/ mountain biking organization, the agreement grew out of a grass roots movement. However, the land manager, wary of litigation from injured riders, shifted responsibility to the mountain bikers. This continues to be the case today in most sanctioned riding areas where volunteers build/ maintain trails.

In the majority of agreements, the trail builders/ maintainers are responsible for meeting recognized standards. Whistler was the first to bring in standards in response to litigation risks (referred to as 'the Whistler Trail Standards' and easily reference on the internet). These standards were often referred to in agreements as they were between CRD/ SIMBS. As IMBA grew, their standards were also referenced in agreements - again as in the agreement between CRD/ SIMBS. " From the IMBA website: Trailbuilders and landowners are responsible for the safety of their own trails and facilities. (...) IMBA's goal is to help land managers and volunteers manage these risks by sharing information." The IMBA standards can be referenced on their website.

The CRD/ SIMBS agreement was in effect for many years, until about 6 or 7 years ago when the CRD administration changed. The new admin was pro mtn biking, and proposed a permit system to mitigate the risk to volunteers. We followed this for several years. Then the administration changed again, wanted to bring the agreement back, and put a moratorium on new trails. We are dealing with this present administration and trying to come to an agreement with them. The CRD has now hired a third party to assess the trails at Hartland, so I suspect we may move closer to an agreement with them in the new year. The new agreement will still place a large burden of risk on SIMBS.

There is local precedent associated with unsanctioned actions that affect trail volunteers. About 15 yrs ago, somebody, whoever, put two small wooden ramps on 2nd Ave at Hartland. People thought they were fun, and they were. They were about 10 inches high and pretty insignificant as far as features go. One day a rider crashed, hurt his neck suffering loss of some function, blamed the wooden feature, and sued the CRD along with all of the SIMBS Directors. A settlement was reached.

If there were no agreement with trail builders/ maintainers, there would be no sanctioned riding at Hartland. Under the previous agreement, permits and the yet to be signed agreement on the table, authority is delegated to SIMBS volunteers to build/ maintain the trails at Hartland to Whistler/ IMBA standards. If another organization had the same agreement, they would also be liable. Whoever, does the work would be liable. So, another organization could do the work, but you have to ask yourself who you would like to build and maintain trails: mountain bikers or non-mountain bikers?

Part of my duties as Trails Director is to share information about trail building and stewardship. That is what I have been trying to do on FB and at trail maintenance. I am not the trail police. I am a trail steward.

Believe me, I would build new trail, but in respecting the land managers request to put a hold on new trails, and by focusing on environmental impacts, I am striving to increase the present administrations' respect for mountain bikers and the trails we build. I would much rather build sweet flowy, techy or gnarly single track, than repair broken down trails, or bring raked trails up to standard.
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We are not alone

Unsanctioned trails in designated riding areas are not unique to Hartland. Recently I was contacted by a mountain bike association out of Fernie, BC. They were doing a survey of biking organizations in Western North America to find out how they dealt with 'unauthorized alterations of trails'. Of 53 organizations contacted, 21 returned the survey.

The main tool to mitigate trail alterations is education. For trail braiding/ cheater lines, education was also effective, but organizations found that blocking the trails and re-designing the trail was more effective. These were the common thoughts from the respondents though, on a larger scale, engaging the community, re-aligning the trail to meet the needs of riders is more effective in the long run. The goal of a 'multi faceted approach is to find a balance between the landowner, environment and users'.

There are numerous examples around the park where the SIMBS Trail Crew has tried to seek a balance. Recents re-routes at Hartland have been created to move trails to higher ground and out of seasonal creeks. Lost Trail and North Ridge for example. Rider generated 'dumb-downs' have also been incorporated into trails. Madonna, Jelly Roll and Two Trees for example. Rider generated easy lines, or 'braids' are the main force behind trails becoming easier (and usually wider), over time. Main lines have been restored and the edges of widened trails have been regenerated. Jelly Roll and Lumpy Pants are examples of this. Riders needs have been recognized and the trails have been rebuilt and restored to meet those needs.

Maintenance work is triggered by by safety and environmental concerns. There is a long list of environmental issues to deal with in the park so the Trail Crew has lots of work ahead of it. However if there is a section of trail or feature that is unsafe, please let us know. If you notice some environmental damage, please let us know that also. If you can come out and help with the maintenance - even better. We'll be out on Sunday Dec 10th. Please join us.
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Unsanctioned Trails and CRD Trails Assessment

I love new trail. There is something about creating a new line that resonates deeply. Unfortunately, there are consequences with unsanctioned trails in an area that is managed by volunteers. In the Hartland Bike Park, your volunteer organization, the South Island Mountain Bike Society is responsible for ensuring that trails meet standards, and are approved by the land manager, the CRD. Without meeting standards and obtaining approval, unsanctioned trails put your volunteers at risk of litigation.

Unsanctioned trails also create unnecessary work for your trail crew. By far, the majority of unsanctioned trails are not built to accepted standards and the builder does not take responsibility for their work to bring it up to standard. The trail crew is left to clean up. Trying to close down a trail also takes time away the crew.

One new unsanctioned trail at Hartland has been signed to inform riders and to mitigate the risk exposure of your volunteers. Yesterday I was informed of yet another trail and I will sign it in the same fashion.

Yesterday, Patrick Podolski started a trails assessment for the CRD. Patrick hails from the Shore and Squamish and has a firm grasp on trail networks and building to standards. He will be at Hartland all week conducting his survey. Feel free to stop and chat with him. At present, the CRD Supervisor has asked for a moratorium on new trail building.

In addition, I have been receiving reports of CRD personnel roaming Mt Work's unsanctioned trails to educate riders. Looking into the future, I am fairly certain that we would all like to have sanctioned trails throughout many of the CRD Parks. However, it becomes very difficult to make a case for volunteer management of trails if there is no 'buy in' from our own community in the area where riding is sanctioned.

Unsanctioned trails do not help your volunteers. Please come out and lend the trail crew a hand instead. There is lots of work to do. If you have some ideas for maintenance, please contact me.

Craig
SIMBS Trails Director
trails@simbs.com
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“Mountain biking accessible to everyone. ” - SIMBS Vision