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GF ATV Club hosts fun (and educational) day

Rainy weather didn’t dampen the spirits of the Grand Forks ATV Club members as they hosted a successful and informational Family Fun Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. last Saturday up on the Morrissey Creek Forest Service Road.

Morning activities included a trail ride hosted by the Boundary Horse Association, a mountain bike ride and a guided hike. Playmor Power Products brought along a number of new ATV models for people to check out and B & F Sales & Service threw some Arctic Cats into the 'toybox'. Free ATV rides were offered in the afternoon. Face painting was available for kids and kids-at-heart.

A number of guest speakers presented throughout the event while volunteers dished up BBQ hotdogs and hamburgers and sold raffle tickets.  Proceeds went to support the local club. The raffle was held at the end of the day, with some great prizes being handed out to a number of attendees.

Though club vice-president Doug Zorn reported an excellent turnout, with over 30 people there at one point, but thought the turnout would have been greater if the weekend had been sunnier. "It was too bad some more kids couldn't come out for Kaya to paint some more faces."

"How do you build community? That's the one I've struggled with because I'm involved with two or three different things in the community and it's always a challenge," said Zorn. "Events like this do help to build community...but if the people don't want to come out then what do you do?"

Zorn explained that the group tries to have two to three events per year. The most important focus of this particular function was to bring attention to the multi-use trail system proposal for Christina Lake and Grand Forks. These trails would be available for use by ATVers, dirt bikers, mountain bikers, x-country skiers, snowmobilers, horseback riders and hikers. The club hoped that many of these groups would attend, as much of the information provided by the guest speakers was relevant to all trail users.

CSC (Canadian Safety Council) certified instructor Don Frew, also the ATVBC director for Boundary/Kootenay clubs, was the first speaker of the day, giving an informative and practical talk about ATV safety and trail safety in general.

Zorn reminded everyone that, "We're coming up to riding season again and it's a beautiful time to get out there and enjoy, so just keep safety in mind all the time when you're out there." Trail users were cautioned about common safety issues like backing up and objects on the road. The club regularly offers a certified ATV Safety course; the latest one was scheduled for last Sunday.

Following Frew’s presentation, a representative from the RCMP discussed current and new, upcoming licensing regulations for off-road vehicles.

Barb Stewart discussed invasive species common to the area and what precautions need to be taken by trail users to prevent their spread. She is the Invasive Plant Program Coordinator for the Boundary Weed Management Committee based out of Rock Creek.  Free laminated card sets—conveniently attached to carabineers—and pocket guides to weed identification were handed out at the end of the talk.

As part of a strategy to prevent the spread of invasive species, the club is looking to build ATV wash areas at existing and future staging areas, based on recommendations by Stewart.  She cautioned that there have been problems with people damaging these stations. There is also the issue of where the wastewater is going. “Obviously you don't want any gas or oil draining into a creek or river.” The area needs to be carefully selected, and a more urban location is preferable.

Stewart suggested that a rotating portable wash station could be set up at events and is willing to work with the group on this. Zorn reported that a wash station is set up at almost every event by the hosting club and members are generally conscious of washing their machines off at events every time they ride. 

Local biologist Jenny Coleshill, accompanied by her dog Lily, was the final presenter and enthusiastically spoke on the environment.  "We live in such a diverse area here. It's quite amazing to be a biologist in this area because we have it all. It's literally probably the only place in the world where grizzly bears and rattlesnakes almost overlap.”

The valley here is primarily grassland that, worldwide, is a threatened ecosystem. There is also a large wetlands area, which is critical for grasslands to thrive. Coleshill, with contribution from Stewart, talked briefly about the Boothman's Oxbow Grasslands Restoration Project before moving on to the unique wildlife of the area.

The valley is full of endangered species associated with the grassland ecosystem, including Western Rattlesnakes, Gopher Snakes, Western Screech Owls, and Lewis's Woodpeckers. GF has the highest density of Lewis's Woodpeckers in the country.

Tiger Salamanders are another red-listed species and the biggest terrestrial salamander in the world. Coleshill described the condition-triggered amphibian crossings that are being documented, in which these salamanders migrate across the highway along with Spayed-foot Toads, Pacific Chorus Frogs and Long-Toed Salamanders. "If you've ever seen it, it's incredible—thousands of hopping critters all at once going across the highway."

If anyone sees a grizzly bear in the region, please report the sighting to Coleshill, who is building up the genetic database for this threatened population. This area is one of the biggest multi-species corridors across the entire BC/WA border. Wolves, which are also being documented, started returning to the Boundary around 2005. There are three big packs reported to be in this area. Bighorn sheep and deer were also discussed.

Coleshill said the wetlands are particularly sensitive areas that trail users need to be aware of. Stewart expressed concern about the grasslands as well, pointing up the hills above the group. "When you put marks up that hillside it can take over 60 years to heal. That's a good reason to stay on roads."  Coleshill added, "I know you guys in this area are going to be on the forest service roads anyways, so it's maybe not so applicable to the motorized group; but to the mountain bike group and the horses and stuff, no new trails in grasslands. Let's keep it to what there is." 

There was a comment made that no dirt bike riders showed up for the event, but were one of the groups that needed to hear the information presented. Coleshill agreed that there are some issues in this area that need to be addressed. She described a drive up Morrisey Road last fall. "I could not believe the state of that road. The erosion coming down and it channels water and makes all new problem areas—it’s huge.”

Coleshill suggested that she and the club could work together on a project to try and fix the road and trails. Stewart commented that no one wants access on that side. "No one wants to fix the road, they want it to wash out, which is bad because everyone goes around it and makes a whole new road. That’s a tough one."

The club will be receiving more detailed information about specific sensitive spot, including how to develop and manage the trails around them without impacting the environment.

Zorn said one of the things they would like to see is good signage to help ensure that users are prepared and stay safe. "By education, we can affect change in people," said Zorn. By having educational kiosks, signs, etc. trail users will be better able to identify sensitive areas. Zorn believes that ninety percent of the population will stay away from a sensitive area.

Last year, representatives from 16 local user groups came together to sign the Boundary Country Trails Agreement which states, in part, that, “Successful management of trails for recreational opportunities requires that all trail users work together to achieve a common purpose, being the creation of sustainable and environmentally sensitive trail networks for the benefit of all users recognizing individual needs and requirements.” The group hopes to foster good will between all users and the community, promoting the philosophy of “Trails for everyone, but not every trail for everyone.”

ATV/BC, RDKB Area C, and the Phoenix Foundation have provided funding to help move the trails project forward. Community Futures and Boundary Economic Development are assisting the club to apply for a Job Creation Partnership through Work BC that will provide project manpower to help develop staging areas and trail signage.

The Grand Forks ATV Club would like to thank all the volunteers, sponsors and guests that participated in this event. Raffle prizes were generously donated by: Playmor Power Products, B & F Sales, Country Road Greenhouse, Mariposa Greenhouse, Raven's Greenhouse, Home Building Supply, the Christina Lake Firefighters, Nick's Feed Store, Clyde's Pub, the Station House, the Grand Forks Rec Dept., Lordco, King Fisher Fly & Tackle, Chain Reaction, Joga's Espresso Cafe, the Victorian Motel and RHC Insurance.

The Quad Riders ATV Association of British Columbia (ATV/BC) provided the event their promotional trailer, stocked with safety, licensing and registration information.

Zorn extended a special thanks to Overwaitea and Buy-Low for providing the hot dogs, hamburgers and all the fixings for the BBQ.

The Grand Forks ATV Club (GFATV) is a group of local ATV enthusiasts geared to protecting the beautiful outdoor ATV opportunities we have today and for years to come. The Club promotes safe riding practices and responsible operation of ATVs. They welcome all ATV enthusiasts, as well as supporters of the ATV community.