Many mountain bikers all around the world will be familiar with the infamous North Shore of Vancouver. As one of the birthplaces of freeride, the North Shore has evolved to become one of the most respected and well-known trail systems in North America. Not only has it fostered some incredible riding talent by becoming a hub for mountain bikers based around Vancouver in BC, it’s also become a business hub for many cycling and outdoors brands and businesses that have chosen to call the North Shore their home.
But after decades of access to the slopes of Mount Seymour for the likes of mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and dog walkers, this Thursday those trail users were greeted with freshly erected signs they had never seen before:
“Unauthorized access for recreational or any other activities is strictly prohibited. The owner is not responsible for damage or loss of property or injury.”
As it turns out, the land that these 25 ‘No Trespassing’ signs have been sighted on is owned by a company called the Canada Mortgage & Housing Corp (CMHC). The land covers 644 acres and hundreds of kilometres of trails. While many of the North Shore trails pass through patches of land with different ownership, it’s estimated that the land owned by CMHC has at least 30 of these world-class trails running through it, which are now off-limits.
The signs came as a complete surprise to the local mountain biking community, who received no prior consultation regarding the change of mind by CMHC. In fact, many riders considered the land to be owned by the local district, and not a private company. With riders having previously enjoyed decades of access to the land, the move by CMHC is causing significant concern within the community.
The North Shore Mountain Bike Association (NSMBA), has issued the following statement via their website to urge riders to respect the signs and stay off the trails;
“In light of the No Trespassing signs being installed on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) land in the Mount Seymour area, known locations listed below, the North Shore Mountain Bike Association is urging its members to respect the signage while we investigate their origin. The NSMBA is attempting to contact the CMHC, which has historically been a hands-off landowner, and will communicate to the community through our website and on our Facebook page any changes in their official position. As of the time of posting all NSMBA trail maintenance activity has been suspended in the area and riders are urged to respect the signs as posted.”
Past president of NSMBA and current councillor in the District of North Vancouver, Mathew Bond, has been pushing for more information from CMHC on why the signs were erected in the first place.
“I think it’s important that whoever is in charge at CMHC realises the importance that these trails have for our community. Outdoor recreation is part of the North Shore identity. It’s part of our lifestyle. It’s who we are. It’s why a lot of people live here. It’s the reason a lot of our businesses choose to locate and stay here. You can probably name dozens of businesses that operate here, hundreds of employees, millions of dollars in economic activity.”
On Thursday afternoon, CMHC issued this statement;
“The land neighbours parks that are popular with nature and outdoor recreation activity enthusiasts. However, the land is not a park or a recreation area. At its core, this is a safety issue. In our continuing role as co-owner and manager of the land, and in the interest of advising the community, these signs were installed as an immediate measure.”
“CMHC recognises the concerns raised as a result of this updated signage. Currently, steps are being taken to engage with interested parties, including the province and the local municipality, with a view to considering options for future use and ensuring a co-ordinated approach to managing and monitoring the use of the property,”
The land itself in question was rezoned in 1995 by the District of North Vancouver as Park, Recreation and Open Space. CMHC challenged this rezoning, but failed to overturn after taking the case to the B.C Supreme Court. The area of land is likely to be worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Questions still remain as to the full extent of the trail ban and the reasons behind it. Perhaps CMHC is concerned with the safety of specific trail features on the North Shore? Or perhaps this is a more permanent ban with long-term implications?
More updates as we get them…