The sounds of 4×4 vehicles roaring through Sooke’s hillsides have ceased since the Capital Regional District gated the access road to the Sooke Mountain Provincial Park.
Ron Low, a member of the Island Rock Crawlers, said the prohibition of motorized vehicles along Harbourview Road has killed the sport of 4×4’ing in the local community.
“We have tried to encourage the CRD and other establishments to establish an area where we could follow our sport. And as a result of this we have to go north of Duncan to find any places where we can go off-road or the Mainland.”
The last three-day event in Sooke took place in 2002, where over 175 registrants from around North America attended. It entailed participants driving through old logging and skidder trails, followed by a mud drag on private property. The event had been running for six years before it was cancelled due to lack of 4×4 areas.
The club, which used to be located in Victoria, now operates just north of Duncan, where off-roading is a little more welcomed than in Sooke.
Low stated that he believes hikers, mountain bikers and motorists can all enjoy the Sooke Mountain Provincial Park in harmony, as the different recreational activities do not take place on the same trails.
He also said the presence of motorists on trails could serve as a support system for stranded or injured hikers and cyclists.
A majority of environmental concerns arose from motorists purportedly tearing up the pathways, uprooting vegetation, and pollution of streams or creeks.
But Low states, any damage that exists on the trails was already done beforehand.
“The roads were already there before we got there. They were already established by loggers, all we did was keep them open and useable,” he said. “ It doesn’t wash them out and if it does then we can adjust that.”
Low also said there are three lakes located at the top of the Sooke Mountain Provincial Park that are of sentimental value to old timers like him. But he said they are now inaccessible because of the 10-hour hike it would take to get there.
“For old guys like me, the places I used to go, I can’t go now because there are gates. People my age simply can’t get there, because we certainly can’t walk there.”
Low said there are other 4×4 events throughout North America that are embraced by their respective communities. Namely, events in the South Dakota Black Hills, Moab, Utah and the Johnson Valley in California.
“They have the whole community who changes the signs and welcomes the off-roaders to the community.”