August 22nd, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 34
E-bikes facilitate backcountry access to local anglers
Could e-bikes be a solution to facilitate backcountry access for hunters, anglers, hikers and those with limited mobility?
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
Lisa Kinnear Photo
Pictured above are John Dodsley and Ryan Campbell riding a pair of e-bikes during a recent overnight fishing trip to Rainy Ridge Lake. They, along with two other companions, wanted to test the e-bikes to see how they would fare as a tool to access land that they had previousy accessed by OHV.
Pass Herald Reporter
With the changing regulations of motorized vehicle use in the Castle Park and the newly instated Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) in Southern Alberta, outdoor recreationists, hunters and anglers are wondering how they can reach their favourite outdoor spots without the aid of an off-highway vehicle (OHV), as they were before.

This has certainly been on the mind of local photographer, hunter, angler and all-around outdoor enthusiast Lisa Kinnear. Since childhood, Kinnear had used a 4x4 vehicle to access hiking, hunting and fishing spots in the Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park, but with the instatement of Castle Provincial Park and Wildland Provincial Park, she can no longer access those areas with her 4x4 vehicle.

She heard about other people having a good experience using e-bikes – or power bicycles, as per the Motor Vehicle Safety Regulations - to access trailheads in places traditionally accessed by a 4x4 vehicle and thought they would be a good solution for her.

“The e-bikes really intrigued us because with the changes we’re seeing in access, we thought they might help us get to some of the places we used to go," says Kinnear.

To test them out, Kinnear, her boyfriend Ryan Campbell and two friends rented out four municipal e-bikes on July 21 to use them as a means of transportation to access a lake stocked with Golden Trout up on Rainy Ridge, now part of the Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

The group biked the roughly 10 km down West Castle Road to the trailhead leading to Rainy Ridge Lake before locking up the four e-bikes and beginning the hike up to fish and camp overnight at the lake.
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Since the West Castle Road is not a designated OHV trail within the Park, it can be accessed on foot or by bike. But after some other hike-and-bike trips she had taken in the Castle Parks over the summer, Kinnear calls the extra distance you have to walk to the lake trailhead “a slog”.

“You have this very long, boring hike now. We thought the bikes would be an alternative that would help us cover that grinding terrain faster and more efficiently,” she says. “The nicest thing about it was the energy you saved. They definitely do make it easier. Even if it’s a moot difference with time, they save a lot of effort.”

Overall, the trip was such a success that Lisa and Campbell have already purchased their own set of fat-tire e-bikes to use for this purpose.

“For us personally, I think they’re going to be another tool in the arsenal. We definitely feel that they were worth the investment. There are a lot of advantages to a machine that is so quiet compared to an ATV. This is going even further than my off-road vehicle can go, and quieter too,” says Kinnear, although she notes that she is still thinking through the logistics of carrying hiking and other gear more comfortably, like saddle bags, and lifting the bike into a truck, since they are so much heavier than a regular bike.

According to Denis Hache, District Conservation Officer with Alberta Environment and Parks, e-bikes that meet the definition of a power bicycle are not allowed on provincial park trails unless the trail is designated for motorized off-highway vehicle use. However, OHV use, including e-bikes, will continue to be allowed on select trails until 2020.

Within the Livingstone-Porcupine Hills Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ), e-bikes are not considered motorized and therefore are not restricted to designated trails. The same regulations that apply to traditional bicycles apply to e-bikes under 500 watts.

Kinnear did note that she was unclear on how hunting regulations, which can limit the timing of OHV use in some areas, would be applied to e-bikes. However, even if e-bikes eventually face the same timing constraint as OHVs, Kinnear says she would still consider the e-bikes a worthwhile investment.
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“Even if so, for us personally, we would be able to deal with that constraint. It wouldn’t be a deal breaker for us. We would just need to be a little more conscious of it. For the amount that we invested in them for now, they will serve our purpose for a few years,” she says.

While that purpose may be facilitating access to fishing, hunting, hiking and berry patch spots, Kinnear hopes that their use goes beyond getting her back to some of her favorite places, and that they may also prove to be a useful tool for those with limited mobility, as well.

Kinnear's father was injured in a coal mine accident around the time she was born and although he is still mobile on foot, the limitations on motorized use add extra distances to get to many of his favourite spots in the Livingstone-Porcupines PLUZ and Castle Parks areas. Without some form of assistance to cover those distances, he may not be able to go back to these spots. The hope is that e-bikes might be a solution for him.

“He put a small cross up in a little rock cliff in the Middle Kootenay Pass at our favourite berry patch area and it was for his dad, my grandfather. With some of the changes in access, it’s not an area that he can go back to. We're hoping that maybe these e-bikes might be a good solution for him,” says Kinnear.

Granted, Kinnear acknowledges that e-bikes might not be the end-all solution for everyone, her father included.

However, if they prove to be a useful tool for at least some of the people who are unable to access the backcountry on foot, then already they may prove themselves to be a useful and progressive tool.
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August 22nd, 2018 ~ Vol. 89 No. 34
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