A new group is looking to become stewards of Nopiming Provincial Park near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The Nopiming 4 Lakes 4 Wheelers has been in place for two months with one goal in mind: protecting over 160 kilometres (100 miles) of trails established over the years.
Club president and board chair Rod Harder said the club has registered its name but has not officially incorporated yet. He wants to protect the trail network found within the provincial site.
"It's pretty wild trails. Picture sort of a flat mountainous area where there is a lot of Canadian Shield granite rock, lots of streams and trees of various kinds," Harder said. "It makes an excellent riding area and there's been over 100 miles of trails established over the years from trappers and enthusiasts."
While trails are already spread throughout the park, Harder said they exist in a grey area and are not legally recognized by government.
"The park in itself is sort of tolerating it right now, but legally it is not allowed," Harder said. "So we were formed to establish, develop and maintain a legalized system of trails within the park."
A rock and a hard place
Harder feels public perception is one of the big early issues the new group will have to address.
"You've got a variety of people who have been doing this for years and think by forming a club and doing what the government wants, we could possibly be inviting a closure of trails that are tolerated right now," Harder said. "I think in this day and age, we have to work with government to find solutions for these things and that is why this group has formed."
Harder adds they are not just running into issues with trail enthusiasts. Some officials in government have also caused some headaches.
Members of Nopiming 4 Lakes 4 Wheelers are exploring and enjoying nature in the provincial park. — Photo courtesy Sharon Campbell
"One individual in particular has been taking time to destroy access to trails and various things without any sort of communication," Harder said. "This has really raised people's anxiety, frustration and anger towards the government, which is not helpful."
As president of the Nopiming 4 Lakes 4 Wheelers, Harder has been working to get the ball rolling with ATV Manitoba, which is officially recognized by the government as the voice of responsible ATV enthusiasts in the province.
"They are helping us figure out how to approach this particular area, being in a provincial park," Harder said.
Keeping the trails rugged is their priority
One of Harder's concerns is maintaining the ruggedness of the trails as they are. He feels the club's first goal has to be mapping routes throughout the provincial park.
"We have to really put together a trail system, get it mapped by GPS, navigated and put it into a package that works for presenting to the government to say 'this is what we are trying to do,' " Harder said. "What's the purpose of a provincial park? It has to be for the people of the country to enjoy, both residents and guests in the park."
Harder said many of the group's members are heavily invested in its success, along with the future of a trail network in the provincial park.
"We've got a dedicated group of 15 to 20 people at this point who are very enthusiastic and have quite a bit of talent," Harder said. "So we are looking forward to that coming to fruition later on this year."
Above all, Harper stresses protecting the park is one of the group's main priorities. He feels its possible to make the park accessible to all user groups without damaging the many sites found within.
"It's actually breathtaking sometimes when you are going along a trail and you see a rockface reflected in the water in front of you and it's so smooth and clear that you see two images of the rock and trees," Harder said. "You just stop and enjoy. We've got fantastic wilderness and nature and to get to the wilderness, an ATV is a standard way of doing that. If you are going to enjoy the park, you have to be able to see the park."