Garry Salekin of Calgary is recognized for his work building and maintaining off-road trails

Building bridges and roads to protect riders and the environment

by Michelle Carr Johnston |

— Photo courtesy of Garry Salekin

We all know that the trails we ride on and the bridges we cross don’t build and maintain themselves. The fences that protect natural areas and streams along the trails didn’t put themselves up.The truth is, seemingly tireless volunteers dedicated to protecting both the environment and the sport of off-highway vehicle riding do the lion’s share of this kind of work.

Garry Salekin, vice-president of the Calgary ATV Riders Association, is one of those volunteers. Salekin has made such a huge impact on trail preservation, upgrading and maintenance, in fact, that he has been awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. 

While ATVing and dirt biking with his sons, Salekin noticed that many of the trails were in need of some care and maintenance, and he encountered other trail users that thought the same thing.

“We all want to be environmentally friendly, and on many trails you went through a creek rather than over a proper, engineered bridge,” Salekin said. He and many others knew that this needed to change.

A hands-on endeavour

Over the past several years Salekin and a group of like-minded volunteers have spent endless hours securing funding, acquiring approvals and assembling work parties. Since 2006 over 5000 hours have been put in by volunteers on a number of projects including fence installations, bridge repairs and trail maintenance in the MacLean Creek and Waiparous areas. In 2007/2008 volunteers spent 800 hours cleaning up refuse left by irresponsible users at Maclean Creek.

Salekin points out that this work is essential both for the environment and for the sport.

“Some people and organizations think OHV users shouldn’t be allowed to enjoy themselves due to the few bad apples who make us all look bad,” he said. ”These individuals don’t realize that with well-made and -maintained trails the majority of users would stay on the designated trails; we just want to get out and have fun like everyone else.”

Volunteers and funding are needed

The work isn’t easy and there are many obstacles that must be overcome along the way.  According to Salekin, the biggest are money and volunteers.
“It takes money to make and maintain sustainable trail networks, but once you have the money you need volunteers that are willing to spend their time working on the trails.”

Salekin is pleased with the amount that has been accomplished in the Waiparous and Maclean Creek areas so far. His goal is to secure sustainable funding that would allow current trails to be maintained and enhanced and new trails to be developed. Headway is being made, according to Salekin, but he admits it has been “a very long haul.”

So the next time you are off-roading, take stock of your surroundings and the improvements and infrastructure along the way. People just like you make it all happen; do your part to respect the trails and the environment. Be a good apple.

Recognized by royalty

This year, Calgary ATV Riders Association vice president Garry Salekin was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for his work on the preservation, enhancement and maintenance of Alberta’s many off-highway vehicle trails.

In celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a commemorative medal was created to mark the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne. It also serves to honour significant achievements and contributions of Canadians.

The National Trails Coalition was invited by the governor general to nominate 30 people from across Canada who have played a significant role in improving Canada’s trail infrastructure. Mr. Salekin clearly deserves the honour.

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