The covert efforts of a couple of mountain bikers to catch whoever had been dragging potentially dangerous obstacles into their path have led to an arrest and exposed simmering tension between those who want to ride the wilderness of the North Shore and the hikers who want them gone.
Two mountain bikers hid cameras high in the trees above the Lower Skull trail on Mount Fromme. The North Vancouver RCMP credit their efforts for the arrest of a 64-year-old woman who was caught on the hidden camera allegedly setting logs and rocks on the trail with the intention to obstruct mountain bikers.
Officers have recommended that Crown prosecutors charge her with setting a trap and causing mischief to property.
Elise Roberts, a 59-year-old resident of North Vancouver who leads seniors' walks through the mountains, said she does not condone the "foolish and compulsive" behaviour of the person who placed the obstacles, but does understand the frustration.
"Mountain biking as a sport is unstoppable. It's good for the economy and everything else, but it has to be contained," she said. "When people's concerns about safety and the environment aren't being heard by district parks, it leads to people getting frustrated and trying to enforce the issue themselves."
Vancouver's North Shore is regarded as a world-class destination for mountain biking, and the number of local fans of the sport has increased significantly. Membership in the North Shore Mountain Biking Association, an advocacy and trail maintenance group, has grown to 600 from 100 since 2010.
Opponents of mountain biking in the area say the tampering is an illustration of the tension between riders and hikers on the trails, most of which are designated for shared use.
Trevor May, vice-president of NS Ride, B.C.'s largest bike club, said he knows the two who set up the sting, but they do not want to be identified.
"Hats off to the guys who have been pursing this over the last two months," he said. "They've spent a lot of personal time staking out the area, setting up the cameras and just going up there constantly."
Mr. May noted that unexpected debris and logs on a trail as challenging as the Lower Skull could cause serious danger, even for riders not moving at high speeds.
"When you're going down it, because it's so steep, you can't see what's coming in front of you. When you come over an edge and there's a log across, you have virtually no time to react."
Ms. Roberts said her group has been forced to dodge mountain bikers. Although most are respectful, she believes the District of North Vancouver must do a better job of managing mountain bike paths.
"We need better enforcement of illegal trails and we need to have single-use trails."
She noted media reports have "demonized" the woman, who Ms. Roberts said was probably motivated by safety concerns for hikers, while Todd Flander, a local man lionized for digging illegal trails and laying the foundation for the current mountain biking craze, is revered as a "hero."
Mr. May said he has seen obstructions on mountain biking trails on the North Shore before, including logs that appeared to have been placed intentionally.
"It seems like they're separate incidents because they're so far apart."
Since it was formed in 2001, the North Shore Mountain Biking Association has worked to assert bikers' right to use the local trails and alleviate tensions with the community.
Mark Wood, program manager for the association, said just a few residents are still opposed.
"It's not like how it was 15 years ago. Mountain biking is no longer a fringe sport," said Mr. Wood, who has recruited hundreds of volunteers to help maintain trails and more than two dozen corporations to help fund their efforts.
"The work we've done really benefits everyone. We work on mountain bike primary trails and on multi-use trails. We respect the environment. What has happened is an aberration. It's not an attack on mountain bikers, but on the whole community."