British Columbia

Kootenay showdown: trail fixer pleads not guilty to parks infractions

'[Parks Canada] are trying to intimidate me and the public to stop us from doing their job. Most people say 'Give him the tools and let him run.'

'Parks Canada ... takes protection of resources under its care, upholding of regulations, very seriously'

David Pacey says he has some expertise at trail building and has no plans to stop. (David Pacey/Facebook)

Retired Radium Hot Springs road engineer David Pacey​ has pleaded not guilty to regulatory infractions for voluntarily fixing park trails, but Parks Canada insists he is breaking rules.

Neither are backing down, so this standoff is headed to trial as soon as the judge can find a date for the day-long proceedings proposed by a prosecutor.

Pacey says it all began after he got sick of what he describes as treacherous trails in Kootenay National Park.

So he used his own wheelbarrow and pick axe to fix the popular pathways, without permission.

Parks Canada warned him to stop, then charged him under the Parks Act.

Parks Canada's website invites hikers to try the Stanley Glacier Trail and the Kindersley-Sinclair Loop through alpine meadows and mountain ridges. (Parks Canada)

On Oct. 11 Pacey pleaded not guilty to double infractions, so the prosecutor pushed forward looking for a date from the court, asking for a day or more for trial to hear five witnesses including park wardens and a superintendent.

"The judge just looked over his glasses and said 'Really?' all this for two regulatory tickets?" said Pacey who admits to laughing out loud in the Invermere court room.

"This is bizarre. Absolutely bizarre," he said.

"[Parks Canada] are trying to intimidate me and the public to stop us from doing their job," said Pacey who has had overwhelming support in local media to keep on fixing the trails.

"Most people say 'Give him the tools and let him run.'" said Pacey.

This switchback is part of the five kilometres of trail a retiree has tried to reclaim. He focused on the Kindersley and Cobb Lake trails. (David Pacey)

Despite outcry, Parks Canada has no plans to back down.

Requests for an interview earned an email from the federal service:

"Parks Canada is a world leader in conservation and takes the protection of the resources under its care, and upholding of its Acts and Regulations, very seriously," wrote Tania Peters, a communications officer with Parks Canada.

"It would not be appropriate to comment at this time as the matter is before the courts." 

Years spent repairing without permission

Pacey says he started work on the trails eight years ago, ignoring warnings to stop.

He claims he's cleared at least five kilometres of trail in the southern parts of Kootenay National Park.

But with all his bush-clearing efforts he says there are still alpine areas, especially the 16.5-kilometre Kindersley Lake area loop that remain dangerous.

David Pacey has fixed about 3-kilometres of the 16.5-kilometre Kindersley-Sinclair Loop trail, but he's concerned about upper levels he describes as a dangerous 'goat track' that could end in a 400 foot fall down a slope. (David Pacey)

"It's a goat track, and if somebody falls they could roll down a 400-500 foot slope," said Pacey.

Parks Canada not impressed

Pacey was given a ticket after caught brush-clearing in April, 2015.

He faces two counts of damaging flora, fauna or a natural object, which is a contravention of the Canada National Parks Act.

A person can face a $300 fine for this if convicted of the summary offence, akin to speeding or littering.

For the love of trails — David Pacey spends a lot of hours pruning and fixing pathways in Kootenay National Park, but the effort has brought legal action from Parks Canada. (David Pacey)