P.E.I. woman asking province to add etiquette signs to trails
'When we get 10 to 20 centimetres, we are talking about major ruts and boot marks'
A P.E.I. woman who uses trails across the province wants to educate hikers and cyclists on trail etiquette, but she says she doesn't think it should be her responsibility.
Cynthia King runs a Facebook group called P.E.I. Trails Report — the group is a place people can go to see what conditions the trails are in.
Recently, King has been posting etiquette tips to the group.
She said it was prompted by people using the trails who sent her private messages. She said they were concerned about ruts being formed on the trails and were wondering who had the right of way — cyclists or hikers.
"We are all trying to share certain trails together," she said.
More and more people are using the trails on P.E.I. More and more people are trying to live a healthy lifestyle.— Cynthia King
King said certain snow conditions can cause problems on the trails.
"When the snow is heavy and deep, if you go and take your fat bike out there and create all these ruts and then it freezes over that night, the hikers can't hike," she said.
The same is true for hikers who venture out in deep snow without snowshoes, creating holes that freeze, King said.
"It makes it harder for everybody else that is going to use the trails, including snowshoers," she said.
'Major ruts and boot marks'
"When we get 10 to 20 centimetres we are talking about major ruts and boot marks," she said.
A good way to avoid leaving behind those marks is to wear snowshoes instead of wearing just boots or riding a bike on any trails when the snow is soft, King said.
"When you wear snowshoes that actually helps everyone because it packs it down," she said.
King said she has a simple rhyme to help people decide if they need snowshoes on the trail.
"Think before you sink," she said. "If you're on the snow and you sink down, and you see that someone coming along after you may have a problem with that, cause it is too deep," she said.
"Just give it some thought."
Risk of injury?
Those ruts can cause people using fat bikes to crash or could cause seniors walking the trail to twist an ankle, King said.
"Then you are out for the season. There is no hiking, there is no riding," she said.
Though King has been posting the etiquette tips to Facebook, she said she shouldn't be the one trying to educate trail users.
"When you've got all these different groups engaging in conversation online and trying to navigate through this, I think it is really important that the province step in and take the lead," she said.
King thinks the provincial government should put signage up "as soon as possible" and consult with groups that use mixed cycling and hiking trails.
"More and more people are using the trails on P.E.I. More and more people are trying to live a healthy lifestyle," King said.
'It's about safety'
People are coming from all over Atlantic Canada to use the trails, she said.
"This is a big-picture item about health. It's about safety and it's about tourism," King said.
In an email to CBC News, officials with the provincial government said it is open to meeting with groups who use Island trails.
"We're certainly open to meeting with Cynthia and other trail users to hear their concerns and suggestions, and have a conversation on how together, we can improve our trails for everyone who enjoys the variety of activities welcomed on the trails," the email said.
In the email, officials also said there is a fat-biking trail at the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park in Brookvale, and on the ski park's website there are some etiquette guidelines.
Some think signs should be added only to provincial trails, not all P.E.I. trails.
Bryson Guptill, former president of Island Trails and an avid user of the trail system, said he supports the idea of posting tips, just not everywhere.
"I think it makes sense to have trail etiquette signs posted on trails that are being groomed by the province," he said.
But he said he doesn't think signage is needed on ungroomed trails.
"On regular trails that are not being groomed, I certainly wouldn't want to see people discouraged from coming out and walking," Guptill said.
If people are given "an excuse not to walk," they won't walk the trails at all, he said.
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With files from Steve Bruce