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Central Okanagan dirt bikers have been kicked out of Myra-Bellevue Provincial Park, Crawford Falls and the Greystokes during the past decade.

And now, Lakeview Irrigation District wants restrictions on their use of the Lambly Creek watershed, which has the only motorcycle recreation zone in the entire province.
“We’ve been cut out of 65 per cent of the territory we used to ride 10 years ago. We’re all focused on that one area now and they’re saying go somewhere else. We have nowhere else to go,” said Bruce Saarinen, treasurer of the Okanagan Trail Riders Club, during a news conference Wednesday.

The current war of words dates back to the fall 2004 newsletter of the irrigation district which stated LID has addressed every issue affecting its watershed but one.
“Recently, Lakeview’s entire watershed was designated as a dirt bike emphasized recreational management zone under the Okanagan-Shuswap land and management resource plan. But LID was not part of this process, nor was it informed of the decision to include an intensive RMZ within its watershed until after the fact,” the newsletter told its 1,600 customers.

The Okanagan Trail Riders, with a membership of 300-400, said the resource plan was prepared by 55 representatives of government and the public over a 4.5-year process.
“Ted Jeffery, their former manager, told me they had representation through the B.C. Association of Irrigation Districts but they weren’t happy with it,” said Ron Irnie, trail riders’ secretary.
Don Dobson was the consulting engineer in the LRMP process and also works for the irrigation district so he was familiar with the RMZ, he noted. Lambly Creek was one of five watersheds studied during the process.

“There was no way it could go unnoticed by anyone practicing due diligence,” added Terry Burke, the club’s LRMP representative.

“Did someone go to their door and take their hand? Probably not. But that’s a hollow statement. In my opinion, they’re not doing their job properly. They’re looking for an I-told-you-so scapegoat, trying to pass the buck, which I think is irresponsible.”

The trail riders and predecessor Kelowna Dirt Bike Club have been using the area off Bear Lake Main forest service road for more than 30 years, he noted, so “we didn’t appear on the landscape overnight.”

The club has invested more than $15,000 on securing Bear Creek and other areas for recreational use; closed many parking areas on the south side of Bear Lake Main to discourage riding on the creek side; bought and installed signs to educate riders where not to go; installed three permanent outhouses supplied by the B.C. Forest Service; met with interested groups like Riverside Forest Products; and participated in the LRMP process.

The club approached the irrigation district about sharing the cost of other improvements. LID went to the province but couldn’t get the funds there so declined to participate.

Dobson, representing the irrigation district, is now putting the onus on the provincial government, its regulating agencies and the LRMP implementation and monitoring committee to ensure the watershed is protected and rules/regulations followed.

“It is likely the actions of others that may be causing the increasing amount of damage,” he admitted to the club.

The irrigation district has “abandoned the collaborative process,” said Ken Umbarger, club president.

“Their method is to close the watershed to all recreational users. On the surface, it would appear that LID has embarked on a campaign of fear,” he said, designed to undermine previous agreements with cattle farmers, forestry workers, hunters, miners and recreational users.
“I don’t mean to throw mud at them but the siltation and turbidity is probably not coming from us. It’s not an exact science; there’s been nothing conclusive.”

A coalition of recreational trail users has nearly completed a proposal to annually license dirt bikes, ATVs and snowmobiles which would provide money through a trust fund for environmental projects, enforcement, education, trail construction and maintenance, added Burke.
Trail users could then be identified, noise complaints addressed and equipment like spark arresters required. It has been suggested conservation officers could be responsible for enforcement.

© 2005 Kelowna Daily Courier - reprinted with permission



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