News came last week from the Recreation Sites and Trails Technician, Luc Anderson, that the Vedder Mountain Interpretive Forest has been Legally Established under Section 56 of the Forest and Range Practices Act. Recreationalists and trail advocates have been working towards the legal establishment since 2005. This announcement serves as a huge victory for the local recreation community.
Back in mid 2000’s, the trails on Vedder Mountain were under the threat of logging. At that time, the mountain was already a very popular location for various trail users, including dirt bikers, ATV riders, horseback riders, runners, hikers, and mountain bikers. These passionate groups had spent years and thousands of volunteer hours creating the extensive labyrinth of trails on the mountain. Most trail enthusiasts recall riding and biking on Vedder Mountain since the early 80’s. The mountain had even played host to some historic BC races for both mountain biking and dirt biking. In fact, the Vedder Mountain Classic was once one of the longest running mountain bike races in North America; and today, it serves as the flagship event for the FVMBA. It also played host to many Pacific North West Motorcycle Association enduro races, and still does to this day.
In order to preserve these coveted trails, the user groups banded together to form the Vedder Mountain Trails Association (VMTA). This association was comprised of representatives from the Backcountry Horsemen of BC (BCHBC), Vedder Mountain Motorcycle Club (VMMV – formerly the Cascade off-road Motorcycle Association), the Fraser Valley Mountain Bikers Association (FVMBA), the Chilliwack Outdoors Club (COC), Give R’ Take Around the Lake Society, and the Lower Mainland ATV Club. Together, this group has fought for the legalization of the trails. This group has served as a model for many other collaborative trail organizations in the Province, including the Tabour Mountain Recreation Society, the Shuswap Trails Association, and the Chilliwack Recreation Advisory Group (CRAG).
We asked some the of the VMTA representatives what this victory meant for them and most recall days of their youth spent hiking, biking and riding up on Vedder. They fell in love with the trails and have been involved ever since. However, it was the threat of logging and the formation of the VMTA that really brought everyone together. Back in February of 2005, a protest was held on Vedder Mountain to raise awareness and support for the trails that were under threat of logging. This rally marked the beginning of a long 13 years of work to get these trails legally established.
Past FVMBA President and current FVMBA Director of Advocacy and VMTA President, Ernie Kliever, noted that this protest sparked interest in trail advocacy:
“I remember attending this rally. I was a young 15 year kid who loved riding the trails on Vedder Mountain. I listened to Mark Steinebach speak about how important this area was and that we needed to work together to protect it. Mark inspired me to get involved with the trails and it was several years later that I found myself on the Board of both the FVMBA and VTMA”
He adds that he was hired as a summer student in high school to work for the Ministry of Forests and his first job was to help with the mapping of the trails on Vedder Mountain. He has been involved with this project for a very long time: “I’ll be turning 31 this year,” he jokes. He would like to thank all those that have been working on this project over the years and is looking forward to a bright future.
Gary Baker from the Chilliwack Outdoor Club recalls the early days of the VMTA, from working to protect the Vedder Ridge Trail from logging, to the GPS mapping of all the trails on the mountain. He jokes that there was some reluctance from his group to join forces with the Mountain Biking and Dirt Biking crowd, but the importance of preserving the trails was greater. He goes on to note that working with the VMTA changed him:
“I’d be remiss if I failed to say how working with the VMTA has changed me. It has dispelled any prejudices I may have harboured about the sincere passion and respect that the members of all organized recreational user groups have for the forests and the environment. Finally, I am truly in awe at the passion I have for this mountain. Every time I venture on to it, I feel at peace; it gives me great joy!”
Ray Heppner from the Vedder Mountain Motorcycle Club recalls his youth spent dirt biking on the mountain:
“I still remember the first time I dirt biked on Vedder back in 1987 as a teenager trying to keep pace with guys that had much more experience. I also remember riding one of the early Vedder Mountain Classic on an unsuspended Norco Sasquatch or Bigfoot, I think that experience kept me on the well suspended dirt bikes”.
He goes on to say, “this milestone of achieving a Section 56 and official recognition as a stakeholder of our trail network on Vedder mountain gives the Vedder Mountain Motorcycle Club hope for the future generations to enjoy the thrills of riding single track trails on Vedder”.
Brian Dick from the VMMC notes that he has been riding dirt bikes on Vedder with friends since 1998. He recalls meeting some of the key trail builders and riders on Vedder, which sparked his interest in helping with trail building and maintenance. He then became more involved attending meetings, and serving on the VMTA board. He notes that this is exciting news, and is looking forward to what the future has to offer:
“this is a beautiful mountain and with VMTA and CRAG help we can make it better and fun for new people that want experience Vedder in different ways”.
Clarence Wiens from the Around the Lake Society reminisces about the rally back in 2005 and how is really moved and compelled people to support these trails. He notes that Dr. Mark Steinebach was central to the formation on the VMTA, people listened to him speak at the rally and he continued to serve as a driving force behind the legalization and protect of the trails for many years. Growing up in Yarrow, Clarence recalls spending his youth hiking and biking on the mountain. He later went on to form the wildly popular “Give R Take Around the Lake” trail running race. He is hopeful that his “community, of trail runners, Around the Lake Give’r Take 30 race participants, hikers, and mtn bikers, will benefit for many years from the protection of this mountain.”
Achieving interpretive forest status is a rather unique designation. This type of designation is not very common, and we are very fortunate to have two of them here in the Chilliwack and Mission. Comparing the interpretive forests in the Fraser Valley to the Sea-to-Sky corridor, the Sea-to-Sky has a total of 3 interpretive forests with just over 3,200 hectares of land. In the Fraser Valley, we now have approximately 8,200 hectares of land between two interpretive forests.
|Brohm Lake||Sea-to-sky||~400 hectares|
|Shadow Lake||Sea-to-sky||~125 hectares|
|Vedder Mountain||Fraser Valley||~3200 hectares|
|Stave West||Fraser Valley||~ 5000 hectares|
This is great news for us here in the Fraser Valley and presents an exciting opportunity for continued trail development — but most importantly, the legitimization of our recreational trails.