Desous resident hopes to open dialogue between horseback riders and mountain bikers for trail options

“There is a need for more recreational development” - CMBC

A Desous Mountain resident is hoping to open up the lines of communication between horseback riders and mountain bikers.

Candace Stafford, whose family owns the Desous Valley Ranch, said she has concerns about her rights, and areas to ride on horseback, disappearing.

Stafford is responding to a recent notice issued by the Williams Lake Cycling Club and the Cariboo Mountain Bike Consortium reminding horseback riders to stay off its newly-constructed trail on Fox Mountain.

Thomas Schoen, president of the CMBC, said aside from being designated by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development as not for equestrian use, horseback riding can also cause significant damage to mountain biking trails.

READ MORE: Horses damage new Fox Fire mountain bike trail

Stafford, meanwhile, said she isn’t out to ruin anyone’s fun, and has nothing against mountain biking, however, would like to have a stake in how trails are being legally designated.

“Our ranch is at the base of Desous, so we open up our gate and ride up into the property there,” Stafford said. “I don’t want to cause a fight, but I don’t want to be walked all over, either. We’ve been riding here forever, we live on the ranch next door to Desous. My husband’s been ranching there for 25 years and family has been there for 100 years.”

Schoen said he understands Stafford’s concerns, and said he’s all in favour of more trail users. He said he’s owned horses in the past, and loves horseback riding, but noted in certain situations horseback riding and mountain biking don’t mix well.

“I understand the perception that’s out there that mountain bikers get a lot of love in Williams Lake, which is absolutely true but it’s because of decades of hard work to get to this point,” Schoen said.

“I’ve worked with the BC Horse Council in Clinton, McBride and engaged with them deeply, but there unfortunately is not a chapter here in Williams Lake and I’d be more than happy to give a talk, or presentation, on how to apply for funding and things of that nature. We’d love to hear from more groups.”

Legally, the Williams Lake Cycling Club has a partnership agreement with Recreation Sites and Trials BC (RSTBC), which includes four large trail networks in the Williams Lake area.

The majority of the trails within these networks have been designated for non-motorized use including mountain biking, hiking and viewing, but does not permit equestrian use, said a ministry spokesperson.

Obligations of the agreement with the WLCC include maintenance of the trail network, environmental stewardship, managing liabilities, as well as providing annual reports and operating plans and trails may have been existing, or were proposed and approved through an application process with RSTBC.

The Desous Mountain master plan and trail development proposal was prepared for the CMBC with financial support from the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District.

Through RSTBC, the project was referred to local First Nations and tenure holders in the area, the ministry said, while the WLCC was successful in its funding application through Western Economic Diversification; Northern Development Initiative Trust, and the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition.

READ MORE: B.C. drivers told to be nice to other road users, especially those on horseback

“Partnership agreements with the RSTBC are suited for situations where a special interest group has a vested interest in a site or trail and wants to maintain it in the public interest,” the ministry spokesperson said. “Any group may approach the Province with a request to enter into an agreement for the maintenance of a recreation site or trail.”

Schoen said it’s taken 25 years, plus “hundreds and hundreds” of volunteer hours applying for grants and lobbying to be successful building the vast trail network they have in the Cariboo.

Stafford said her next step will be to attempt to organize an official chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of B.C. in Williams Lake — an organization which has 900 members in 23 regions throughout the province.

“I know they have chapters in 100 Mile and Quesnel, and we may have had one in the past here in Williams Lake, but we’d like to lay the groundwork to secure a few good trials so we can advertise that, as well,” Stafford said.

“It seems like there are not many known trails here, and it would be nice to have some tagged trails so we can let people know the places they are allowed to ride. I just feel like if we’re living in a community run by one group, and every other group is put aside, that’s not how we should be doing things.”

Schoen added he’d be interested in giving a presentation to other user groups, or providing advice, on how to apply for grants, who to approach and contact, and how the process works.

“I’d be more than happy to come to an annual general meeting or talk to them to fill them in a little bit to help them out with that type of development,” he said.

“There is a need for more recreational development, and anything we can do to help we are more than willing.”

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