VICTORIA -- Mountain biking is becoming increasingly popular in the Capital Region, but that popularity is pushing some bikers to build unsanctioned trails at Mount Work Regional Park.

Last week, the Capital Regional District dismantled two unsanctioned trails, which it says were not built to International Mountain Biking Association and CRD standards and did not meet safety requirements. The CRD also says the construction of unauthorized trails may be impacting ecologically or culturally sensitive areas.

Decommissioning unauthorized trails redirects staff resources from other essential work within regional parks, according to the CRD.

More than 30 per cent of the park is designated for mounting biking and the CRD says there currently 42 kilometres of authorized biking trails in it.

The South Island Mountain Biking Society (SIMBS) is a team of volunteers that advocates for trail access and helps build and maintain authorized natural surfaced single-track trails in the Hartland area, along with CRD park staff. The two groups have worked together for almost 20 years, since the mountain bike park was created in 1999.

With more and more riders using the mountain bike park, there has been a greater need for more trails; that need has largely been ignored by the CRD, says SIMBS.

This is creating some frustration among riders who are looking for new riding experiences. The society says it doesn’t condone the building of unauthorized trails, but does understand why it’s happening.

“So many people are going out and falling in love with the sport and with our terrain here and our wonderful mountain bike park,” says Alon Soraya, vice president of SIMBS. “Because there is so much love and passion for the sport, people are taking matters into their own hands.”

The CRD says it is developing a compliance action plan that will address unauthorized trail-building in all district parks.

The district’s approach will be through education, communication and, if necessary, enforcement to seek compliance with park regulations.

The CRD is also looking to initiate the development of a management plan for Mount Work Regional Park, something it hasn’t done since acquiring the original portion of parkland in 1970. The district says the planning process is expected to begin in mid-2020 and – given that the park has a complex array of interest groups and issues – continue until the end of 2022.

Soraya agrees with this approach.

“The best way forward is management planning, because that opens a door to discussion with all user groups, with policy makers and landowners, and where everyone is listening and actually ready to make change,” Soraya said.

A plan can’t come soon enough, though, for SIMBS and other mountain bikers, who are about to lose some of their most popular trails in the biking area of Mount Work. The CRD is expanding the boundaries of the Hartland Landfill as part of the Solid Waste Management Plan.

One of the trails that will be lost to the landfill expansion is called “Who’s Your Daddy.” It’s currently the park’s most-ridden trail, according to data from Trailforks, a highly popular ride mapping/tracking app.

Another popular trail that will be affected is “Snakes & Ladders.”

“CRD staff and directors have committed to offsetting these future impacts,” says Soraya. “It's our hope that the management planning process and the regional mountain bike policy will identify specific ways to mitigate the upcoming loss of authorized trails and create new capacity to address the excess demand.”

“We will continue to work to build positive relationships with the mountain biking communities in the region,” says the CRD in a statement. “Mountain biking is an activity that improves physical health, enhances mental health and wellbeing, brings people together, and encourages activity in nature. All of which align with the core values of CRD Regional Parks.”

The CRD is currently working to establish an advisory group to assist in the development of mountain biking guidelines to address the recreational needs of mountain bikers in regional parks while giving consideration to other stakeholder needs and following the direction in approved management plans.

“We’ve seen communities in the Cowichan region, up in Cumberland and all over the mainland really embrace the sport of mountain biking and the community that comes with that with open arms,” says Soraya. He hopes the CRD will take a similar approach.