loader image

ACRE bans bikes on its Chelsea trails

April 2nd,2024 | Municipal News, News

Sam

Chelsea resident Sam Seymour rides through the forest near his home off of Musie Loop on Easter Monday. Seymour and hundreds of other mountain bikers learned last week that ACRE is banning biking on its trails until it can find an insurance solution. Photo: Trevor Greenway

The last thing ACRE wanted to do was ban mountain biking on its trails throughout Chelsea. 

But when its insurance company “refused to cover mountain biking,” the environmental organization said it had no choice but to ban the popular Chelsea sport. 

“When we started the process of acquiring lands, we were under the impression that we were covered for all activities on our lands,” said Action Chelsea for the Respect of the Environment (ACRE) board member Olaf Jensen during a public meeting on March 27. “In February 2023, we were informed by our insurer that we were covered for all activities, except biking – all biking activities.”

Close to 85 mountain biking enthusiasts filled a room on the Meredith Centre’s second floor during the meeting, where they were apprised of ACRE’s short-term plan of placing prohibitive signs along popular mountain biking trails in the Larrimac area, including the Jolicoeur-McMartin, Larrimac and the Dionne-Wilson Forests. 

“This is not like the desired state for ACRE; it’s not something we’ve tried to achieve,” Jensen told the crowd. “We were very surprised by this. I think most of us feel that there’s a misunderstanding [by insurance companies] of what biking is all about.

According to Jensen, ACRE pays approximately $500 per year to insure hiking, walking, cross-coutnry skiing and snowshoeing activities on its trails throughout the municipality. However quotes to include mountain biking along these same trails – trails that locals have cycled on for more than 20 years – range between $6,000 and $20,000 per year. Jensen told the crowd that without insurance the organization couldn’t risk a potential lawsuit if a biking accident occurred on one of its properties.

“While the probability of an accident is low, and the probability of being sued for an accident is low, the potential impact is that there are legal fees that would have to be incurred to defend against the lawsuit,” said Jensen. “And if a suit were successful, we would potentially have to sell some or all of our assets to be able to pay for those fees.”

ACRE member Marie-Claude Osterrath told the crowd that mountain biking is not the only activity being targeted, saying insurance companies are “making it impossible” for houseboat owners and other activities they deem “high risk.”

“There is a big change going on in the insurance landscape,” she said. “Less and less insurance companies are willing to invest in what they consider risky activities. It’s not just biking, but it’s kind of across the board a new phenomenon that’s happening with insurance companies.”

Some mountain bikers in attendance expressed their concern with the loss of trails they had been riding for two decades (some spots were formerly technically considered trespassing, while others came with verbal agreements with landowners).

But now that ACRE has acquired these lands to conserve in perpetuity, some said they worry that the land-use agreements, which protect activities such as hiking, cross-country skiing and biking, won’t be honoured. 

Chelsea mountain biker Derek Medland told the Low Down that his biggest concern is creating animosity between trail users, especially when the “bikes prohibited” signs go up. While ACRE won’t be actively enforcing the ban, he hopes that all trail users – walkers and cyclists – can remain “civil.”

“I think people are concerned that it’s just going to invite confrontation between user groups, and that’s not right,” said Medland. “A lot of mountain bikers and fat bikers do a lot of the trail work back there but also contributed a lot of money under the understanding that the usage wasn’t going to change.”

Medland said he appreciates the work ACRE has done on the file and feels confident that riders in Chelsea will come together to find a solution to raise money and maintain the trails. However, he agreed that there is still a lot of work to do to get the trails to an insurable level, both from a “functional and governance” perspective.

For ACRE’s part, it told the crowd that it is still committed to “maintaining the existing uses on the trails.” However, for now, mountain biking is prohibited until an insurance solution is found. 

Latest Headlines

News

HELLO SUMMER!

THE LOW Down is on holidays!

The office will be closed from July 10 to July 23. There will be NO EDITION published on July 17 or 24. Our next edition will be on July 31.

News

A fiery 40th

Wakefield’s treasured wooden bridge – a village icon that had spanned the Gatineau River for 69 years – was a fiery inferno. Villagers were out on their docks or scattered along the riverbank, watching the structure crack and bust apart span by span – many of them, like Garnett and her partner, Norma Walmsley, aghast as the violent flames tore through the nearly 90 metres of wood in a matter of minutes. It was precisely 40 years ago from this edition’s publication date. 

Letters

Hills peace and justice group giving us hope

The Editor, In response to Stephanie Turple’s “Upholding western values” (July 3 edition) and what the group Hills for Peace and Justice calls (H4P&J) “‘genocide and colonization’” (June 12 edition) As per the March 26, UN Human Rights Council’s reasonable...

Hard-hitting local news delivered right to your mailbox (or in your inbox!)

Support feisty, independent journalism.

 

At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

To help meet the demands of inflation and the costs of producing fact-based local news, we have introduced new pricing options. Our goal is to meet readers where they’re at, and keep our newspaper as affordable as possible.

Print + Digital Subscriptions

Digital Subscription

Support feisty, independent journalism.

 

At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

To help meet the demands of inflation and the costs of producing fact-based local news, we have introduced new pricing options. Our goal is to meet readers where they’re at, and keep our newspaper as affordable as possible.

Print + Digital Subscriptions

Digital Subscription