It seems to be a regular annual event, the trashing of the Tumbler Ridge cross country ski trails by snowmobiles. The pattern is familiar. Dedicated Wolverine Nordic and Mountain Society (WNMS) volunteers spend hours of their time grooming and tracksetting the trails. Cross country skiers are then able to enjoy a few blissful outings on these magnificent trails. Then, usually in the wee hours of the morning, when chances of detection are at their lowest, snowmobilers ride on the golfcourse fairways, wreck the trails and do damage to the greens as well. Sometimes they then head onto the forest trails where, because the snow cover is less, they churn up the dirt and devastate the trails . Skiers then have to wait patiently for the next heavy snowfall before the trails can be regroomed properly, and they desperately hope that the cycle is not repeated.
Some may think this is due to ignorance. However, the numerous signs that indicate that snowmobiling is prohibited on these trails are reflective, bright and large, and cannot be missed (especially at night). Most of them have no-snowmobiling icons, for those that cannot read.
And last year many of the signs that the District of Tumbler Ridge and WNMS paid for and installed were mysteriously stolen in the dead of night. In the spring they were found, burned, at a well known local bush party venue. This is not ignorance, it is anarchy. More signs are being installed, but that is clearly not the whole solution. If you are a renegade snowmobiler and you have already ignored twenty signs and burned a couple, you are unlikely to heed an extra few signs beside the trail.
It is well advertised that Tumbler Ridge has over 300 kilometres of snowmobile trails, and eight kilometres of cross country ski trails. Clearly some are doing their best to change that ratio to 308 to zero. Consider an equivalent situation and imagine the outcry if some vandals sabotaged the zamboni or destroyed the ice so as to make skating impossible in the arena. And the District of Tumbler Ridge went to considerable lengths to install road signage in town directing visitors to the trailhead for the ski trails. One can only guess at the impression their current state will make on such guests.
It has been a bad few weeks for the golf course in another way as well. A 4WD truck damaged fairways 1 and 2 (again in the early hours of a Saturday morning) and then roared up onto the ninth green to do some intricate spins. The damage done will take a lot of time to repair once the golf season starts.
What is the solution? The vast majority of snowmobilers are respectful of skiing, and many of them partner on numerous projects with WNMS. The renegades likely do not read newspaper articles like this. WNMS is addressing this with the District of Tumbler Ridge and the RCMP. More frequent patrolling of the area, especially on weekend nights, is one obvious answer. So is a reward system for any information that leads to a conviction.
Then there is community and parental awareness. Parents, know where your kids are riding, and if they repeatedly ignore your pleas to adhere to the law, consider turning them in. And for the great majority of law-abiding citizens, please help reinforce the message: the Wolverine Ski Trails and the golf course are a No-Snowmobile, No-ATV zone.