WATCH: The Department of National Defence wants people to stop trespassing on its rifle range in Nanaimo. For years, bikers and hikers have been using the trails on the forested property and as Kendall Hanson reports, many say they want to continue accessing these lands.
The trails behind Nanaimo’s Westwood Lake are popular with mountain bikers and hikers alike, but some of those trails cross property owned by the Department of National Defence.
It’s land the military uses as a rifle range and the DND says it’s taking steps to keep people off its property.
“It’s very upsetting to me,” said Stephen Jenneson, a mountain biker.
“[I] really don’t like it. I’m all for inclusivity of land use.”
Despite “No Trespassing” signs, people have cut holes in fences, in some sections, to get access. The Military says “No Trespassing” signs have also been removed but admit some sections have never been fenced.
The military says using their property is very dangerous as it’s an active military forces rifle range.
“It’s used quite often,” said Lt. Commander John Nethercott. “At least 20 days a month, night and day and quite often on the weekends so the danger here, of course, is people accidentally getting injured via stray rounds ricochets or anything of the sort.”
But the battle lines have been drawn and now a petition has been launched to maintain some access.
“It’s where I go to rebuild myself after I’ve been working all week or in school all week,” said Tyler Walker, petition organizer. “It’s the reason why I live in Nanaimo and on Vancouver Island is sections of forests like these trails,”
In less than a week, the petition Walker started has been signed by more than 1,800 people.
“I haven’t felt unsafe up there at all it just seems a bit extreme and I just hope we can have a human to human conversation about it and hopefully find common ground,” said Walker.
“I would encourage anybody to use common sense and good judgement and encourage others to find someplace that is more conducive to recreational activities than a Canadian Armed Forces weapons range,” said Nethercott.
Paul Manly,who recently won the Nanaimo-Ladysmith riding, says he’s received numerous calls about it and he’s investigating.
“Whether we can get some community consultations on this and just have this decision deferred to a later date so that people can continue to use the trails in the summertime,” said Manly, in a phone interview in Ottawa.
But DND says using the lands is trespassing, and anyone going there risks serious injury.