A message on the East Coast Trail Association’s (ECTA) website during the weekend advised that mountain bikers will be on the trail July 11, 12, and 13.
“Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures, a mountain biking tour company has, without the approval of the East Coast Trail Association, scheduled a mountain bike tour on several ECT paths,” the message reads.
It went on to say the bikes would be around Flatrock to Torbay Friday afternoon; on or near the Sugar Loaf Path in the vicinity of the White Hills Saturday morning; and between Cape Spear and Maddox Cove Sunday.
Ken Sooley owns the local company Cape Race Cultural Adventures Inc. His company is the local operator managing the Sacred Ride tours along the ECT. Sooley says a conversation between his group and the ECTA would benefit both sides and alleviate a lot of misunderstandings about mountain bikers and the effect they have on trails.
“We have been reaching out to them for about five months in a very professional, conciliatory way to talk about this,” he said.
Sooley added the ECTA doesn’t seem to understand a lot of the trends which have already found their way into the eco-tourism of other parts of the world. Today’s mountain biker is an older, financially stable, and ecologically responsible individual, he said.
Sooley said the popularity of mountain biking throughout the world makes it extremely profitable, while having a cheap ecological price tag. His group is willing to offer financial assistance with trail upkeep, Sooley said.
“All we really want is to make them aware of the things that have been going on around the world that have been beneficial,” he said.
However, there is still the issue of the group riding on the trail without the association’s consent. The ECT is now more than 250 kilometres of scenic coastal trail maintained by an extremely dedicated group of individuals.
“We are not planning to ride on any trail that we do not have the permission to ride on,” Sooley said.
But they have already done so. Sooley said he met with the ECTA once about six months ago to talk about the possibility of mountain bike tours on the trail when he was considering the Sacred Rides franchise.
“The answer was a flat no,” he admits.
While the ECTA did post the note about the bikers on its website last week, it is saying now that it is aware of the issue of the bike tours and is dealing with it.
Sooley said ECTA contacted his group last week with an offer to meet and talk. Additional tours through Sacred Rides are already scheduled for August 15-17 and September 12 -14 with a similar itinerary.