Organizer Ben Heemskerk brought a hard hat to a Feb. 22 open house about a summer trail use plan for the Bulkley timber supply area, and it wasn’t a bad idea.
To judge by standing shows of support, half the people who filled the seats, stairs and upper balcony in the Northwest Community College foyer came calling to scrap the plan.
“Why do we need a RAMP?” asked Telkwa resident Ted Cullis, who says the Recreational Access Management Plan is an attempt by bureaucrats and foreign-born “transplants” to tell long-time valley residents where they can or can’t ride their ATVs.
Heemskerk, a member of the volunteer board that re-convened the RAMP last October, said the plan is needed to protect the Bulkley’s many undesiginated summer trails.
“All the places I used to recreate as a kid—they’re all housing developments now,” he said, speaking of his childhood home in the Okanagan.
“If we can get it right now, it’ll make a difference 50 years from now when this valley continues to change.”
As for who sits on the RAMP table, Heemskerk said the key is to strike a balance of off-roaders, horse riders, hikers and other user groups—not to discriminate based on length of residency.
“That’s not fair,” he said. “Everybody should be included in a planning process for community they live in.”
Rick Fuerst, a Telkwa councillor who also called for scrapping the RAMP, agreed that length of residency should not be an issue.
The problem, Fuerst said, is that a lot of motorized users do not feel the RAMP can fairly represent their interests.
“I beat the drums to get a lot of people out. If I had more time, I could have had a thousand people at that meeting,” he said.
Fuerst said it’s not enough that six of the 12 RAMP members simply own an off-road vehicle, and two are members of the BV Quad Riders Club. The process should involve elected officials, he said.
“They talk about being the voice of the public, and I think an elected body definitely is that, just by its nature,” he said.
Fellow Telkwa councillor Rimas Zitkauskas made a similar call at the meeting, suggesting that summer trails planning should be handled by the Regional District of Bulkley Nechako.
But the 736,000-hectare Bulkley timber supply area stretches far outside regional district boundaries.
Kevin Eskelin, a recreation officer with B.C.’s Recreation Sites and Trails Branch, said that ultimately, designating and maintaing trails on Crown land is a provincial responsibility.
From the early 2000s until 2008, the B.C. government formed RAMPs in Vanderhoof, Golden, Fernie, Cranbrook and several towns in the Kootenays. Those plans were made with advisory committees made up of local recreation groups, but the Bulkley RAMP is the first in a provincial shift to have the planning led by an arm’s length community board.
After the Feb. 22 meeting, Heemskerk said the RAMP table may take more time with a draft that was expected in March.
“You’re not just going to push something through when you haven’t adequately been able to deal with public comments,” he said.
“People often have these lines in the sand,” he added, “But when they can actually have a real conversation they realize ‘Hey, we’re people too. We can get along.’”
For more about RAMP or to comment about the process, residents can visit the RAMP website at http://bvcrb.ca/ramp/.