Mountain bikers foil saboteur's 'persistent campaign' with tricks of their own
Woman's campaign to slow down her opponents led her straight into their carefully laid trap
Rain or shine, Tineke Kraal hiked the North Shore mountains before dawn every day with her two dogs beside her and a single purpose in mind.
The 65-year-old painstakingly dragged branches and logs across the trails she believed were under siege by mountain bikers.
She vowed to slow them down.
But Kraal had unwittingly sparked a wilderness game of cat and mouse. One in which she was the prey.
And two equally determined mountain bikers had her in their sights — or more to the point, captured by their infrared cameras.
That game ended in victory for the bikers Thursday, with the pitiful sight of a bone-thin and publicly shamed Kraal forced before a judge for the first time in her life as a criminal defendant.
She apologized to the court.
"I'm really sorry. I never wanted to hurt anybody," Kraal told North Vancouver provincial court Judge John Milne.
"I'm just really sorry and I'll never do it again."
'Sentenced in the court of public opinion'
Almost a year after Kraal's arrest, her case has become infamous among the various groups sparring for space in B.C.'s popular outdoors. The rows of the gallery behind her were filled with both passionate mountain bikers and walkers.
Ironically, Crown counsel Mark Myhre said, one of the unexpected outcomes has been "to heighten the level of courtesy between the two groups."
In the woods, anyway.
Kraal's lawyer, Martin Peters, claimed his client has been living under virtual house arrest since her name hit the headlines, cowering under constant threat from a storm of vitriol on social media.
North Vancouver may be a model of civility on some subjects, Peters said. The war in the woods isn't one of them.
"Kind and reasonable people do not say, 'Screw that: just kill her,'" Peters said, quoting from one online post.
"Ms. Kraal has already been sentenced in the court of public opinion."
She wanted to slow the mountain bikers down
Kraal and her husband moved from Holland to Canada in 1976. He has throat cancer, after surviving bouts of the disease in his prostate and brain.
She has crippling arthritis in her hands and feet; Peters said she hiked the soft terrain of the mountain trails as a kind of therapy, going out from 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. to avoid running into others.
The trails in question were on Fromme Mountain: Quarry Court, Skull and a region of paths called the Rag Doll Zone.
Skull was designated for mountain bikers, who were also known to frequent Quarry Court, even though they weren't supposed to. For Kraal, at some point, an irritation turned into an obsession.
"Kraal believed that mountain bikers wrecked the trails on the mountain," said Myhre. "She wanted to slow the mountain bikers down and to preserve the trails for hikers for their enjoyment."
The infrared cameras planted by the two mountain bikers who set out to catch Kraal revealed a determined figure, struggling with branches as she used a walking stick at times to steady herself. Her dog just watched.
"It's not hyperbole to call Ms. Kraal's actions a campaign," Myhre told the judge. "The result of a collision with her obstructions could have been catastrophic."
But Peters argued that Kraal should be sentenced based on what actually happened, as opposed to what could have happened. And he also suggested Milne should consider the drubbing his client had taken on social media.
"Her rehabilitation is well underway," he said. "She will never appear before this court again. Nor will she leave a stick across a trail."
Cruel and unusual punishment?
The precedents for sentencing comprise a rogues' gallery of people accused of nature-related crimes: a Vancouver woman who poisoned trees to improve her view; a Vancouver Island bird lover who put human lives in danger by sabotaging explosives equipment.
But passion and principle are no excuses for illegal activity.
Milne found that a sentence was needed to make like-minded people "sit up and take notice." And that included giving Kraal a criminal record.
In the end, he found that a three-year suspended sentence fit the crime. She won't have to do the three months house arrest Crown was seeking, but Kraal will have to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
And she'll have to stay away from mountain bike trails.
She will also have to do 150 hours of community service. And in that part of her sentence, Milne ceded a point to Kraal's defence lawyer.
Crown had argued that Kraal be ordered to work with mountain bike riders to build and groom trails. They said they would welcome her.
But Peters argued that that might amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
"These are the same people that threatened to kill her," he said. "There is no reason to force my client to work for the very same people who frighten her the most."