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Local hiker dismayed at watershed trails treatment by quad riders

Rodney Szasz highlights concerns to Ladysmith council over treatment of watershed trails

A local hiker is dismayed at the treatment of some well-known trails and has highlighted his concerns to Ladysmith council.

Rodney Szasz, speaking in front of a captivated audience last Monday at city hall, stated that the walking trails around Heart Lake and Stocking Lake are being damaged severely by quad riders.

"I've sent in a letter and some of the things I've seen up there inside the Ladysmith watershed are not beneficial," said Szasz at the regular council meeting. "I've been going there for over 50 years. Both of our water accesses are not fed by major streams. People like to hike there and a lot of it is in very nice shape. But in various places it is posted that vehicles aren't allowed in there (walking trails). But quad riders have run on the same trail as the hikers. There's a lot of mixing going on and it's not good and is degrading the environment."

Szasz also presented pictures where vehicle drivers, including quads and ATVs, had damaged areas of the walking trails around each lake.

"I have noticed in the past five years or so a marked deterioration a result of irresponsible use by the public," wrote Szasz in his letter. "Of particular note is the problem of quad riders in the watershed and access points cutting across public trails, watershed creeks and salmon spawning streams.

"The trail is regularly used by quad riders who access the higher reaches of Stocking Lake and Holand Lake watersheds. They use about a three kilometre section from the old reservoir to the top part of the trail where the wetlands begin. On this section of the trail quad drivers and hikers do encounter each other with some frequency. ATVs are not allowed on this section, but there is no enforcement."

Szasz also believes that illegal logging and tree felling is going on "with garbage bags being dumped by people carrying them in vehicles."

"This area didn't have vehicle access before. It will get to the stage where we have to choose between them."

Some areas around the various lakes do permit vehicle access.

"I have no time for people who are disrespectful to mother nature and neither do any of us," said Coun. Steve Arnett. "I feel your passion for the watershed and I share that, but I'm not prepared to support a ban on ATVs. We should have a look at how we can manage the area to the best of our ability."

Szasz responded.

"You should have a sign at the start of Stocking Lake and at the entrance to the Heart Lake trail to stop vehicles getting in there. At Westwood Lake in Nanaimo there is a big sign and a number to report violators."

Coun. Duck Paterson stated that there are signs situated at various points around the watershed.

"We do have sings, unfortunately some people don't read them," said Paterson. "More signage wouldn't eliminate the problem, but we should take action and awareness."

Szasz disagreed.

"ATV users wouldn't want to take the psychological blow of running into a hiking group," he said.

Coun. Glenda Patterson believes that council "do need to step up to the plate."

"It's a huge issue. Hats off to the Sportsman's Club for the countless hours they put in up there clearing all the debris," she said.

Arnett had the final word.

"We need to protect our watershed but still make sure people have the proper access to it."

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