British Columbia

Jogger decries offensive mountain biking trail names in Kelowna

A Kelowna woman says a popular trail system in the Upper Mission needs to ditch some harsh words.

Trail names in the popular mountain biking area include 'Squaw Hollow', 'TheRapist' among others

Mountain bikers have built up and developed many trails in the Gillard area, considered one of the best mountain biking spots in the country. (Cycle Path Kelowna)

Mountain biking trails may be known for their colourful names, but one Kelowna woman says some trail names in a network in the Upper Mission area are offensive.

Kelowna runner Carrie Karsgaard went out for a jog recently along the Gillard trail system. Using an app to navigate the trails, she was surprised to find a trail named Squaw Hollow.

"The closest thing I can liken it to is the n-word. It has some serious undertones with the regards to the sexualization of Indigenous women and violence towards Indigenous women," Karsgaard said.

"I was just surprised to see that on a local trail in a public space."

Kelowna runner Carrie Karsgaard was offended by the name of a trail in the Gillard trail system. (Carrie Karsgaard)

She wrote about her thoughts in a blog post.

The group responsible for the Gillard trails, the Mountain Bikers of the Central Okanagan, responded by saying the signs will come down — just not yet.

"We definitely agreed from the start that these signs need to come down ... [but] the key thing is, as it stands right now, we have no legal standing to maintain, adjust or alter the network in any way," explained MBCO president Jay Darby.

The Gillard trail system is technically an illegal network, he said, and the land actually belongs to the Crown.

Darby's group has been fighting to legalize the trail system, and he said they will not make any changes to the trail because he believes it will jeopardize their bid for legalization.

"It was a position that took place from the start," he said.

Origin of names

The trails have been built, changed and renamed over the past 20 years by multiple mountain bike "builders."

Trail names like "Squaw Hollow" and "TheRapist" were some of the ones that stuck and became generally accepted by the biking community, said Darby.

Nobody has taken the initiative to remove the signs, and no one has asked the province to remove the signs either, he added.

Once the trail network is legalized, Darby said renaming the trails will be one of the first things to be done.

He said the group is looking to engage the larger community and the mountain biking community — including the original builders — to come up with the new names.

"They did invest sweat equity in these trails even though they chose inappropriate names," he said.

As for Karsgaard, she's happy the trail names will eventually be changed.

"It's good to hear that they want those to be changed. We don't always acknowledge discriminatory attitudes towards Indigenous people and Indigenous women."

With files from Daybreak South

To hear the interview, click on the link labelled Offensive trail names mar Gillard trails