Vandals trash mountain bike stunts

Mountain biker Bruce Thomson, flanked by his two dogs, rode up, and down the elevated plank — the last stunt remaining on the Lower…

Mountain biker Bruce Thomson, flanked by his two dogs, rode up, and down the elevated plank — the last stunt remaining on the Lower Bogaloo trail.

The rest of the sophisticated volunteer-built obstacles — stunts — have been cut to pieces by chainsaw-wielding vandals.

“I have no idea why anybody would interfere with recreation — it’s not pristine wilderness,” said Thomson, who often bicycles the paths with his son.

“It’s just a place where kids came and did the right thing. Being active and not watching TV or playing Gameboy or X-Box or whatever. So it was a great place for kids.

“Now it’s gone.”

Located in the woods behind the Grey Mountain Cemetery east of Riverdale, the vandalized section of trail featured a teeter-totter, a rollover and a collection of beams, called “skinnies,” to ride along.

Roughly three weeks ago, one or more persons took chainsaws to the apparatuses, or “stunts,” leaving them in shambles. Some standing green trees that lined the area of the stunts were also cut and felled across the trail.

Since the destruction, the city has sent clean-up crews to remove the debris.

“Certainly, from the city’s perspective, we were very dismayed at the senseless and mindless act of vandalism that took place there,” said Douglas Hnatiuk, projects and community development co-ordinator for the parks and recreation department.

“We’ve been in contact with the movers and the shakers within the cycling community, predominately Mark Koepke, he’s sort of our point-person we have as a spokesperson on behalf of the cycling group. And we’ve been working with him in looking at possibly rerouting the trail in that area.”

Koepke and Thane Phillips were two of first mountain bikers to use the old Whitehorse paths that eventually became many of the Bogaloo trails, and built the stunts in 2004.

“So I found these old sections of trail and thought, ‘Hey, this would be fun to ride up; I wouldn’t have to ride up the Grey Mountain Road,’” said Koepke. “So we came up, cleared some of the brush away, and that was the start of Bogaloo.”

The initiative to reroute the trail is result of a plan to expand the Grey Mountain Cemetery.

“There has been some accommodation for it (the trail) in the council-approved design for the cemetery expansion,” said Hnatiuk. “So there is some planned trail relocation in that area.”

Perhaps a silver lining to the destruction of the stunts is the motivation to scout new locations for the trail and future stunts.

“We see an opportunity here now to do two things at once,” said Hnatiuk. “The city will work with the stewards of the trail, which happens to be the cycling community. So what we envision then is a partnership where we would work collectively rerouting the trails and possibly some of the skills apparatuses.”

“In some ways it’s good because now we can build stuff that is better,” said Phillips.

There was a tentative plan to keep the Lower Bogaloo Trail in its present location, leaving it to run through a wooded area in the cemetery’s expansion area. However, the destruction of the stunts has planners thinking differently.

“What I’m thinking is going to happen is that the trail is going to be relocated 150, 200-metres away (from its present location),” said Koepke. “That way it’s right outside the cemetery boundaries.”

“It’s going to be rebuilt for sure,” said Phillips, speaking of the stunts. “I built some teeter-totters in my backyard already that are going in.”

However, Koepke is skeptical as to whether it is a good idea to replace structures until access to the area by truck or SUV is limited.

“Whoever did that work with a chainsaw is not hiking in with a chainsaw,” said Koepke. “They were driving. So as long as they can get back there with the chainsaws by just turning off the Grey Mountain Road and driving in there, well, it’ll become a thing where you build the structures and the next day they chainsaw them up.”

Since the vandalism, an e-mail has been circulated within the cycling community, suggesting that parents concerned for their kids’ safety may have been to blame for the vandalism.

However, not everyone is buying that explanation.

“The way it was done points more to just malicious vandalism,” said Jonah Clark, an employee at Icycle Sports. “There was one roll-over or A-frame that they cut and then set it back up as if there was nothing wrong with it.

“I don’t think it would be a parent because you’d think that they wouldn’t do it in such a way that it might hurt someone else.”

According to Hnatiuk, a recently approved trail plan by the city may provide funds for reconstruction.

“(The council) provided some funds that may be available for this type of work in 2008 or possibly the spring of 2009,” said Hnatiuk.

Unfortunately, this is not the first instance of vandalism to mountain bike apparatuses this year. Two or three times, off the Upper Bogaloo trail, a ramp built over an old abandoned log cabin has been dismantled.

Again looking as if there were malicious intentions, only part of the downward section of the ramp was taken down.

“The thing is when you’re riding up to it, all you can see is the up-side, you can’t see anything else,” said Phillips, speaking of the ramp over the cabin. “So you’re riding on the assumption that it is there … You would have absolutely no opportunity to stop before you’d go over and land on your head … Someone could have gotten really hurt.”

“It may be related,” said Clark, referring to the separate instances. “It’s hard to say,”

Last Friday, the city released a trail map, titled A Guide to Popular Trails of Whitehorse, that can be bought at various locations throughout Whitehorse.

“It’s full of updated trail maps and information to assists hikers, bikers and off-road motorists, to enjoy all that Whitehorse has to offer in its over 700 kilometres of trail,” said Hnatiuk.

“It also provides a great educational component that enables trail users to know the rules of the trails.”

As for Thomson, he’s disappointed for the kids.

“They certainly liked the stunts here almost more than the ride to get to it,” he said.

“But the ride to get here is pretty nice too.”

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