There’s no way into Fort Shepherd now that Teck has shut its gate to the motorized public.
The Trail Wildlife Association (TWA), which manages the property on behalf of the Land Conservancy of British Columbia, recently made the decision to close its gate to protect the conservancy lands and now Teck has followed suit.
“Teck allowed through-access on our land north of the conservancy lands as it is the only road access to the conservancy lands,” explained Catherine Adair, Teck community relations leader. “In support of the Land Conservancy’s decision to close access to the conservancy we have closed the access across the Teck lands.”
This hits close to home for Trail resident Darelyn Stuart, who is just one local who’s frequented the property for over 20 years. She is devastated that she can no longer spend time at Fort Shepherd quadding, visiting and enjoying the outdoors with her family.
“It hurts to know that it’s closed to all of us,” she said.
Stuart is rallying fellow outdoor enthusiasts to join her fight to keep the gate open Thursday, when a group plans to gather at the Teck gate at 4 p.m. to photograph the number of people who are saddened by the news.
She agrees management of the property needs to be tightened but feels this shouldn’t come at a cost to those who use it responsibly.
There is also a real upset from the motorized public who watch others on horseback or foot enjoy the grounds while they remain shut out.
“If we have more surveillance down there then maybe we can catch the people who are destroying the property,” she said. “And it’s not even young kids that are destroying the property, it’s people (adults) driving down there and throwing garbage on the land.”
For the most part, she said riders stick to the trails that have been there for years.
“But when people go and rip up a creek, then it’s understandable, ” she added, “that’s when it’s time to put your foot down.”
Stuart has started a Facebook community forum, “Closing Fort Shepherd Info,” where many ideas and memorable stories are generating. She suggests closing the gate over night and having someone patrol and document license plate numbers during the day.
The land located on the west shore of the Columbia River, across from Waneta, has become a popular playground for off-road enthusiasts.
Use of the area by all-terrain vehicles, motorbikes, and off-road trucks has increased considerably over the past decade.
Though there are signs warning motorists to stick to the main road, some people have ignored access boundaries, and it has resulted in trails, gullies and eroded land, dispersion of noxious weed species and disturbance to wildlife through human intrusion and noise.
The area is closed from December to the beginning of March to preserve ungulate winter range. However, due to an early spring, some people jumped the gun and started trespassing three weeks early. There was evidence of mud bogging, burning donuts and other off-road damage mainly from trucks but also from quads and dirtbikes, according to Rick Fillmore, land use committee chair for TWA.
When the last disturbance was witnessed pre-season, years of misuse were brought to a head.
The property that runs from the first gate down to the Waneta Border Crossing will remain closed until TWA secures grant funding to update its signage, surveillance and possibly a map to better manage the property. The organization would like the cooperation of all off-road vehicle clubs at this time.