Covenants, Off-road Vehicles, and Parks

I still remember the day when working at the Goldstream Nature House, I came in to discover a pickup truck stuck in the estuary mud.  The night before, some yahoos had driven down the salmon-bearing Goldstream River, because, as they told the local newspaper reporter, they “hadn’t seen any signs saying they couldn’t.”  Reports of vehicles damaging parks is distressing common.  Mt Well’s, Mt Work, Gowlland-Tod - the list of parks damaged by “off-highway vehicles” goes on.  Much of the damage to flower and plant communities will not heal in our lifetimes.  As a matter of policy, all of these parks prohibit motorized off-road vehicles.  Park agencies install gates and barriers, which are often vandalized to allow access.

Recently, however, a group of OHV enthusiasts managed to convince the CRD’s Regional Parks Committee to direct Parks staff to investigate the possibility of opening the Harbourview Gate in the Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve, and to determine the feasibility of a designated off-road vehicle area inside the Park.  Conservation groups were livid.  Fortunately, in this case, most the land in the Sea to Sea Regional Park Reserve has conservation covenants attached to it that prohibit off-road vehicle use.

Covenants are legal agreements that are registered on a property’s title, and remain with the land permanently.  They are an effective way to protect private property from future development, or ensure that governments uphold conservation promises made when acquiring park land.  HAT and TLC, the covenant holders on the Sea to Sea lands, were able to remind the CRD Regional Parks Committee that they had legal obligations to prohibit off-road vehicle use in the Park.

This time there will be no need to enforce the covenants.  After hearing from 23 knowledgeable and passionate speakers representing groups like the Victoria Natural History Society, Preserve Our Parks, the Federation of Mountain Clubs, and the Alpine Club of Canada, the CRD Regional Parks Committee re-affirmed its ban on off-road vehicles.  However, it was a reminder of the importance that Land Trusts need to be strong and ready to defend their covenants if needed.  Covenants are not a one-time commitment.  They require vigilance, monitoring, and sometimes, enforcing.

-          Adam Taylor

If you have pictures of vehicle damage in parks that you are willing to share with us, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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