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Ken Umbarger has transformed the Okanagan Trail Riders Association with his dedication and vision. His belief in what "should be", for an active group of recreational adults, has permanently raised the future expectations of all club members.





Kevin Costner and Robert Duval are playing 2 grizzled cowboys at the end of an era when herds of cattle were allowed to range completely free from one end of the country to the next and I finally got an inspiration to write this ramble. “Free Grazer’s” and in the movie “OPEN RANGE” the cowboys are the honourable men fighting for a way of life. It was a great ride while it lasted for a few tough and hardy guys but with growing populations and competing interests for the land it was not a model that could be sustained. There is that word again ....sustainable. You hear it from planners everywhere and guess what....it is not just a fad. As they say these days the “Free Grazer” model was not “sustainable”.  In the end the cowboys realize that having family, a ranch, and some friendly neighbours might not be so bad after all. So here is the parallel. Starting out as a young man (35 years ago) my heart would sing if I had a tank full of gas and some gnarly bush to ride. Back in the day there were very few areas closed outside of a few private land holdings. We made our own trails, loud pipes were cool and we never gave a second thought to what impacts we might be having on the land and others. How times have changed. I grew up, had kids and wanted to share this passion with them but found an entirely different landscape. The areas we would ride are now residential developments or park land and hikers and mountain bikers were using our old trails. We were no longer welcome. I went searching for trails where I could take my young boys and quickly realized us motorized recreationalists had become an endangered species like the cowboys. It was obvious after experiencing some exceptional trail systems in other parts of the world that motorized recreation was all but forgotten in our beautiful Province.


Well in this writers view we have not been a very popular cause for the politicians or other stakeholders to champion. There is a stigma attached to our past practices that must be overcome and we better start by accepting responsibility. Yes that means changing our past practices to be considerate of all users in the back country. Designing and building trails that will last for generations and have minimal impact on other people and resources is the first task. And while working on this task we need to mend some fences and build some bridges of trust with a resolve that the “past is not the future”. In 2009 the Okanagan Trail Riders Association put forth a monumental effort towards insuring a sustainable future for our passion.

Included in this news letter is an extensive Annual 2009 Bear Creek Recreation Site Report compiled by Dick and Joani Dufourd or Rec Connect.  Read this and you will be overwhelmed with pride as a member of OTRA. It is staggering to see documented the amount of progress and work our organization has accomplished.  Thank you Dick and Joani for your unequalled expertise in transitioning motorized recreation in Bear Creek to a managed trail system. Your experience and commitment to this project gives me hope for the future of our sport.

My highest regards  to all those in the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Arts (MoTCA) from John Glaspie to Minister Kevin Krueger for believing in the value of motorized recreation and our ability to operate in an environmentally sustainable manner; for withstanding misinformed public  attacks; and for having the courage to move forward with engineering resource protection. Thank you for providing unbiased scientific   Water Quality testing which evidenced the tremendous improvement our efforts have had on water quality. OTRA is confident that this and future reports will provide the necessary scientific proof that by using the principal of the 4 E’s as taught by Rec-Connect (Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Evaluation) motorized recreation can mitigate impacts to resources and co-exist with all other users. Let us protect resources for the people not from the people.

To the OTRA executive Adrian Van Nieuwkerk, Terry Burke, Lorne Scott and Wendy Dyck thank you for all the work in 2009. You all inspire me. Participants of this sport are in your debt! (Thanks for getting out of bed early for the breakfast executive meetings!) Adrian among his many other accomplishments last year facilitated a commitment from Mayor Doug Findlater and many WK councillors to attend a ½ day tour of Bear Creek. RecConnect led the VIP Tour and did a masterful job of communicating all OTRA’s efforts in protecting resources! Some 20 dignitaries attended and this was instrumental in gaining a new level of appreciation and respect for all the efforts made by members of OTRA.

This was very pivotal as WK council chose to apply political pressure and seek a closure of the watershed area based on and the assumption that our activity is the prime reason a multimillion dollar water treatment facility would be needed at West Kelowna rate payer’s expense. In this writers view, councils actions were to some extend  incited by a negative one-sided campaign led by Heather Larratt and James Moller of LID through to the Interior Health Authority, that pointed solely to past un-managed use and totally ignored the positive changes being implemented over the last 3 years. The negative press resulted in a temporary closure of the Bald Range Creek trail connecting the lower and upper staging areas .......effectively herding riders onto Bear Forest Service Road.  
As your President I made presentations to West Kelowna Council followed by a Press Conference attended by all local media . We got some necessary press coverage designed to clear up damaging misinformation and let the public know the good work we do. I put out a challenge to match my $500 contribution to getting a bridge across the contentious creek. The challenge was matched with another $4000 and together with the matching National Trail Coalition (NTC) dollars (Federal government Action Plan) a total of $9000.00 was raised. Awesome! All contributors’ names will find their way to the OTRA web-site (Thanks for another year of managing and hosting our website Darcy and for your $500.00!) A good deal of my time last year went to working on major grants Ron Canon and Stockwell Day pushed hard for our project. Federal and Provincial Governments came to the table with JOP Funding (designed to put forestry workers back to work). MoTCA funding in the amount of $150,000 and for the significant grants received. John Glaspie and Dick Dufourd helped me through the lengthy grant writing process and along with the $178,000 in matching National Trails Coalition Funds we secured some $640,000 in funding .We employed numerous forestry and First Nations workers on the project along with our equipments operators Ken Gassman and Terry Burke. They were led by David Lock (President of BCORMA) who acted as crew supervisor.  Dick Dufourd of RecConnect was there to manage the project and lay out new trail. On a Provincial level OTRA can be proud that our all of our grant money was leveraged by BCORMA to maximize trail dollars for clubs all over BC!

Terry Burke looked after membership last year and we ended up with just a few short of 350 members. A job very well done by Terry who was our best membership salesmen by far!  Terry’s wife Shelley Madore somehow managed to keep our books in excellent order. This was no small task and provided those agencies granting funds to the Bear Creek project transparency and accountability while imparting a brand of professionalism on OTRA. Thank you very much Shelley!

Special thanks to those of you who took charge in other projects and initiatives. Bill and Sharon Hilland spearheaded a successful “Open House” dubbed  “Trails to the Future”. Some 200 people attended and over 60 tours of the trails were conducted by many volunteers. Christine Van Nieuwkerk, Carol Boyd and Wendy Dyck organized the Family Fun day and CHBC caught all the excitement on film! All our supporting dealers were present with booths.

We ended the year with Frank Braeuer organizing another ride to Colville. This trail system fostered the vision for Bear Creek 6 years ago. The trails are still in exactly the same condition as they were the first time I had the pleasure of riding the area. OTRA had the entire 10 cabins and numerous camp spots booked for the weekend and what a blast we had. The highlight for me was the 6 hour single track ride to Cusack from our camp while Tim Westgate and I tried to keep up to Jack Pyck and John (Tequila) Lenarcic. That beer tasted soooo good when we finally arrived. Way too much fun!

Winn Rentals donated some $4000 in free equipment rental used to build the trail to and from the bridge! We once again used two Honda quads generously provided by M& M Performance and other dealers were always there to lend a hand including Terry Poirier of Kelowna Yamaha who donated $500 towards the bridge fund. Valley Motor Sports was there to support all our events as always.

Crowning the achievements for 2009 was the completion of our bridge and engineered corridor trail to move riders safely and sustainably through Bald Range Creek. This is the second bridge built for this objective. You will recall our first bridge built by Dan Perry of the Kokanee Bush Riders. Dan spent hundreds of volunteer hours and his employer donated all the material to build a magnificent bridge that sits today unused in the Tolko yard....a symbol of the unnecessary frustration and costs that have plagued our progress.   Getting a bridge across this small creek has been far more difficult than anyone could have imagined. Dan’s amazing spirit of volunteerism and generosity has been incentive to us all to see this completed. 

It is finally done and done well.

New Bridge

A heart-felt thanks to all of you who helped make this happen. Some of you put your careers and political capital at risk. Many of you donated time or money or both. $4500.00 was donated by many of you when called on. Of note,  Regional District Westside Representative Jim Edgson who donated $500.00 of his own money and always stood tall for his conviction to a managed approach and substantiating rhetoric with science. Speaking of capital it is appropriate to remind everyone that when OTRA was just a handful of members with a dream to change the course of un-managed use and closures we found uncommon support from the Integrated land Management Bureau (ILMB) and in particular Doug Krogel. Doug with the help of Steve Carr and previous MLA Rick Thorpe put his career at risk by entrusting our organization with some $300,000 dollars...no strings attached...on OTRA’s word that we would buy the necessary equipment to build sustainable trails and engage a qualified architect to design a sustainable Trail System that would be the envy of the Canada.  Well we have honoured our commitment. All of you supported this cause.

Our new bridge is a beautiful example that we are a legitimate activity and we care about the environment and others. Please help to insure we use this momentum to manage our chosen recreation in a sustainable way going forward.

To OTRA and its members, Bald Range Creek will be known as Perry’s Creek and the bridge will be named Krogel Crossing. Plaques will be installed this year to honour the contributions of these men.

Terry Burke has one coming but I may have to argue with him on how many plaques he wants and how big they are. (Just kidding Terry)

In 2009 we had our share of challenges; finding funding;  enormous pressure to close the entire Okanagan Basin Watershed; trying to influence riders to be part of the solution without much enforcement and of course the Terrace Mountain Fire.  For 4 years we have been educating riders of a new model for trails in Bear Creek, namely, the requirement for every bike/quad to have a spark arrestor and a sound level of 96Db or less. Many of you have become part of the solution and I applaud you for being true responsible ambassadors of our activity. You are making a huge difference! Could anybody argue that after the devastation of our recent Okanagan fires a spark arrestor should be mandatory... or that excessively loud motors and the erosion of unsustainable trails in sensitive terrain have caused countless area closures? 65% of our traditional riding areas in the Okanagan Valley have been lost in the last 20years!! Still an unacceptable number of riders have yet to complete this simple muffler modification. I know you mean to “get to it” but just have not made the time. Forgive my loss of patience but if you are not yet compliant get with the program please...NOW!   Supporting dealers are stocking these mufflers and offer them affordably.

For that small sliver of users who have no intention of becoming compliant until full blown enforcement is in effect the good news is it is on its way in 2010. Peer pressure also works. When we run across these inconsiderate folks on the trail help this writer to politely remind them that thousands of hours and dollars are going towards a sustainable trail system for us and our kids and they don’t have the right to ruin it for us. OTRA will continue to press government for an acceptable level of “Enforcement” to insure the success of our “Managed Approach”.

On a lighter note .....We now have 125 km of signed and sustainable trails with a good mix of single and double track! In 2010 we hope to complete a connecting trail to La Casa Resort and tap into the fabulous facilities offered. In addition we will continue to press for a suitable camping facility (complete with a Tot Lot for kids) at the Aspen Flats Trail Head location.

Volunteers Needed! We could use some good volunteers to do trail maintenance such as cutting out windfalls and do some Trail Patrol (offering sound testing and education). Also the executive could really use some more fresh troops so please feel free to offer your assistance. My phone is always charged (250-878-9111) if you feel like getting involved. It is an opportunity to do something you will be proud of and meet some great friends!

Membership.  OTRA membership is very affordable this year. The cost is $25.00 for a single membership and $40.00 for a family membership. When purchasing a family membership please remember to fill in ALL family members as there is strength in numbers! We are also accepting additional donations. Memberships are available on-line at our website www.okanagantrailriders.com or by Trail Patrollers directly at Bear Creek. Visa and MasterCard is also accepted.  Funds raised go toward the cost of maps, building new trails and camping facilities, providing education and efforts to preserve riding areas from closure.  Your membership is vital to this cause and together we will make a difference you can be very proud of. For donations over $500.00 a charitable tax receipt is available. Please call Ken Umbarger (250-878-9111) for additional information.
Our Calendar of Events is looking better than ever so check it out! (Attached). Here are some highlights!

This writer will be sponsoring weekly Wednesday night rides/tours to show off our trail system. Please join me for a ride followed by a hamburger and refreshments around a camp fire. These rides will be confirmed on our forum page of our website for details and confirmation.  I hope to throw in the odd quad tour also so you four wheelers don’t feel left out!  I also hope to have several weeks focused on “Newbies” getting to know their way around and some very basic riding tips.

March 20th 2010 we are meeting at the Paramount Theatre at 6:30 Pm to enjoy Movie Night.  We hope to kick off our new membership drive at this event and have a great time also! Adrenaline Distributions is organizing this event and bringing us the latest Jeff Pekosta enduro race event. This is a great time to come and buy your 2010 Trail Pass and OTRA membership and enjoy a fabulous evening! Cost for the movie is $8.00 for members over 14 and kids 14 and under $5.00. Check out the Poster at www.okanagantrailriders.com

March 30th is our Annual General Meeting held at the Army & Navy. This is a great place to find out what’s going on and meet some fellow riders.

In April we will be hosting our Krogel Crossing Grand Opening including an Awareness/Cleanup component at Bear Creek. Come and give us a hand and go for a trail ride.

In May some of us are planning to ride the Duffy Lake Recreation Area near Kamloops. This is a great riding area with camping and trails for all levels. We are hoping to meet some of the members of the Kamloops to show us around and swap stories around the campfire.

Herb Blamire is putting on an ATV Riding/Safety Course in May also!

In June Jack Pyke has agreed to put on a training seminar on how to use a Garmin GPS. I am the first to enrol so hope to see many of you at this event. It will be great to finally know where I actually am on this planet. June 19th is another road trip to Leavenworth WA. To the Dirty Face Dual Sport Ride followed by camping and exploring single track trails at the  Entiat Trail system. Bruce Saarinen is organizing the event and we are all glad to see Bruce back on his bike after getting his bionic joints.

This list goes on so let’s have some big fun this year. All OTRA events require a BCRMA trail pass and a compliant machine so start by renewing your membership and getting a spark arrestor if need be!

Yours in Riding,

Ken Umbarger
Okanagan Trail Riders Association

  Previous Rambles:

November 2008

April 2007

August 2006

January 2006

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