Early season ATV use at Kinney Lake under scrutiny

Weatherbee says you can tell when a vehicle’s been through. There are ruts where it’s wetter, and the trail is wider than it needs to be. She recognizes it would take longer and be more strenuous for the personnel to do their work. / LAURA KEIL
Weatherbee says you can tell when a vehicle’s been through. There are ruts where it’s wetter, and the trail is wider than it needs to be. She recognizes it would take longer and be more strenuous for the personnel to do their work. / LAURA KEIL

by LAURA KEIL

The BC Government allowing early-season ATV use on the Kinney Lake trail isn’t sitting well with everyone working and living in Mt. Robson Park.

The Goat received an anonymous complaint about a quad being used by the park contractor “on a regular basis” to monitor and maintain the trail. The person said they were writing anonymously as their job security “is directly linked to not bringing attention to the issue.”

“The impression we are giving visitors is that motorized vehicles are a good solution if a park contractor thinks they can save a little time and money,” they wrote.

The person admits there are times when motorized options are acceptable such as medical emergencies or significant trail construction where heavy lifting is involved.

“But regular trail monitoring and basic maintenance should not be on the list.”

According to Ministry of Environment communications person David Karn, ATV use is limited to the lower portion of the Berg Lake Trail from the trailhead to Kinney Lake. Operation is only allowed before June 15th and after Sept. 15th and can only be used to support maintenance activities.

Loraina Stephen, owner of Quartz Contracting, the Park Facilities Operator, says quads are “essential for yearly trail maintenance activities” prior to increased hiking and camping. She says the quad is used by senior trail staff for transporting gravel, lumber, equipment, supplies as well as people.

“The all-terrain vehicle with a trailer is easier on the trail than using trucks and thus we can decrease ruts/damage to the trail,” she told the Goat. “The vehicle usage (including any all-terrain use) is minimal and only as needed for the first leg of the trail to Kinney Lake.”

Past Kinney Lake, all equipment and supplies must be packed in by staff for all trail operations.

Several hikers say they understand the need for motorized use for maintenance.

Susanne and Markos Ecker from Berlin did the hike to Kinney Lake on Sunday. They said they have no problem with park staff using a quad for maintenance reasons.

Toby Lake from Smithers and Rese Wilejto from Burns Lake were on their way down from Berg Lake Sunday. Lake said she didn’t see any damage on the trail due to motorized use.

“Maybe if they were going off the trail…” said Wilejto, but here that didn’t appear to be the case.

But life-long Mt. Robson resident Neysa Weatherbee wonders why they couldn’t do more with bicycles and non-motorized methods of transport.

She hadn’t heard of any complaints this season, but agrees ATV and vehicle use should be very limited outside of emergencies.

“To have them bomb up there every day would be a drag,” she said at the base of the Kinney Lake trail last weekend.

Weatherbee wonders if the government could put in place limitations to the days of the week when vehicles are allowed.

“We already have helicopters going up there several times a week. Now with an ATV buzzing by… It would really lose what makes the trail special.”

Stephens says the issue is one of efficiency.

“(It’s) very efficient in the spring and fall start-up and shut-down work.”

Quartz Contracting holds the 10-year bundle contract for the BC Provincial Parks which includes the Meadows & Rivers campgrounds, Overlander Falls, Rearguard Falls, Lucerne, multiple day use areas from the Jasper border to Jackman Flats), the BC Visitor Centre at Mount Robson, and the first part of the Berg Lake Trail from the trailhead to Emperor Falls (15 km). Stephens says the company has held contracts with BC Parks for over 30 years,

This is the first year these contracts were bundled together and the first year the Kinney Lake trail has been privately contracted out. Prior to this year, ATVs were not used on the trail, as BC Parks did not own any, a Ministry spokesperson said. They did, however, occasionally use trucks.

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