Trail gate destroyed in senseless vandalism
Volunteers will be busy over the next few weeks working out how to repair a TransCanada trail gate that vandals destroyed in late July.
Sometime shortly after the devastating windstorm at the end of July, vandals used heavy machinery to literally pry a 500 pound cement block and gate out of the earth at the trail head in Eagle Ridge, north of Grand Forks.
The damage was discovered by Ray Johnson a member of the Grand Forks All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) club as he returned from clearing the trail between Eagle Ridge and Eholt. They estimate the vandalism was done between July 27 - 28.
Rarely does the trails group report vandalism to the RCMP because it is quite common and there is little to be done about it other than repair the damage, explained Chris Moslin, president of the Grand Forks Trails Society. This time however, heavy equipment was used to destroy a gate that was meant to secure the trail from unauthorized vehicle traffic.
"The gate did not bar ATV's or horses. It was meant to keep trucks and cars off the trail. As you know the trail has no room for 'joy riders' or night time use," said Moslin. "With many dangerous sections that border steep cliffs and the potential of fire as well as property damage, the risk is too high to allow unauthorized vehicles free access."
This is not the first time that this particular gate has been the target of vandals. Earlier this year the same gate was damaged, but the trails volunteers were able to secure it again quickly.
The culprits most likely used a backhoe or a tow truck to move the gate as no other equipment would be able to move the cement block.
"There were treadmarks from the same tire pattern as on my tractor which is a traction tire that backhoes use," said George Longden, director with the trails society. "You could see the treadmarks here."
The gate's location, while ideal for creating the most effective barrier, is located well back from private lands so it would be hard to see anyone doing damage. The gate does open for vehicle access on request, but a user has to get the key from a number of possible keyholders - the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary office, and Chris Moslin are two.
"This North Fork is now full of slash (from the windstorm) that's turning brown as we speak," said Moslin. "We're sitting in a firebox actually. That's part of the threat for these trails."
The trails group is working with the ATV club to redesign the gate to keep the trail open to multiple users, but not uncontrolled vehicle access.
"The suggestion is to build four gates (along different access points), but what we want to do is build one and secure it. If we can secure it, with the co-operation of community, then we can replicate it," said Moslin.
"The real barrier is going to be if enough people say, enough is enough of this type of behaviour. We'd like to have more community vigilence. These gates are here for community safety. If people want vehicle access we'd gladly give it to them."
Regular maintenance is necessary on the trails clearing slash, removing rock fall, and securing the tunnels. Added repairs, like vandalized gates, are costly and not only in cash. It will take days of volunteer time to repair the damage.
The Grand Forks RCMP detachment is investigating the crime. If you have any information about this crime, please call the Grand Forks RCMP at 442-8288 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.