KAMLOOPS - The Coal Hill area linking Aberdeen and Pineview Valley has been a popular place to hike and bike for a number of years. Now a group is quietly working to establish some official trails but not everyone is happy about it.
The Kamloops Performance Cycling Center, the group that runs the Bike Ranch in Juniper, is working on the existing trails in the area in an effort to make them legal and riding there more acceptable. Signs started going up earlier this summer and rumour is a map of the trail system is already in the works as well.
The group refuses to speak publicly about the trails just yet though and that secrecy is concerning some people.
Chris Bebek, general manager of the Aberdeen Highlands Development Corporation, is notably upset over the project and the lack of communication the bike group has had with the corporation.
“I’ve heard there’s something happening with a bike group in town, that they’re working with Ajax and doing something on lands that Ajax has purchased from the ranchers up there,” she says. “We own part of the hillside of Coal Hill. No one has contacted us. It’s inappropriate to be planning without looking at the impact.”
Bebek says they have already had major issues with trespassing and damage being done to both their land and to the fences in place to keep the cattle in (the land is leased out to ranchers.) She is concerned an ‘official’ trail system could encourage even more people to cut through their property to get to the trails.
“We get people cutting the fences,” she says, adding just last week they were out chasing cattle because of a cut fence. “It concerns us for sure that they’re basically encouraging trespassing.”
She notes there have been no conversations over concerns or about mitigating the trespassing that is likely to increase once actual trails are established on the other side of the property owned by the corporation.
“There’s something happening but no one wants to disclose anything,” she says. “What’s the big secret?”
That secret should be out soon though. KGHM International, the company that owns Ajax, and the bike group both say they would not comment at this time but that a release would be issued in the ‘very near future.’
There is no need for the groups to consult with the city on this venture but Kirsten Wourms with the City's parks department says they would like to work with the group to help with trail connectivity, especially with so many green corridors in the area.
Coal Hill is made up of several privately-owned parcels zoned for future development and agriculture. The land use classification on the parcels allows for parkland and open space which includes outdoor recreation facilities. Even then the city considers bike trails such as these to be more informal and would not require a change to zoning.
“As long as the owners are allowing it,” Engineering Director Marvin Kwiatkowski says. “It’s more about liability in this case.”
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