CMHC Update – Access Granted to Seymour

Words Cam McRae
Date Oct 21, 2016

Mixed messages are coming out today regarding the CMHC lands and what access trail users might expect in the future. A tweet sent out by Jane Thornthwaite, the MLA for the area (the Provincial Gov’t representative for those from outside of Canada) suggested that everything has been tidied up but the wording is less than iron-clad .

seymour_cmhc_update

Jane Thornthwaite’s tweet from October 28th isn’t as clear as it could be.

What does she mean by “CMHC and the Province are prepared, as co-owners, to permit…” As a friend pointed out to me, I may be prepared to pay more tax next year, but I’ll avoid it if I can. It seems as though Ms. Thornthwaite is speaking on behalf of the CMHC but the body hasn’t released a formal statement and isn’t getting back to media outlets.

cmhc_signage2

Riding in the area last Friday the signs seemed to have disappeared mysteriously. We didn’t see one.

Some sources are suggesting that the CMHC has met with stakeholders including the nsmba which released this statement:

Update: October 27, 2016

The NSMBA President, Vice President and Director of Advocacy met with representatives from the CMHC’s Vancouver regional office this morning.

The CMHC acknowledges that they did not conduct sufficient consultation with user groups and neighbouring land managers before posting the updated signage.

In summary:

  • The CMHC is committed to dialogue and is currently conducting bi-lateral meetings with multiple stakeholders in order to gather information.
  • The CMHC wants to develop a short-term solution to address issues related to signage and to develop a medium term solution for the trails on their lands.
  • The CMHC was very receptive to the NSMBA and inquired in detail about how the association works with the other land managers.

The NSMBA looks forward to the finalization of the CMHC’s medium term plan, and urges the Corporation to include therein provisions for access to the trail network by mountain bikers and other recreational users.

Original article below.

Hopefully this is all good news and it will continue to get better – but I’d like to see something more concrete from the CMHC.


Imagine blissfully pedalling, hiking or running toward your favourite trail only to discover it’s been deemed private property – despite being owned by a government agency.

Hikers, dog walkers, runners and mountain bikers were rudely awakened by 25 signs at trailheads on Mount Seymour this past week. Most trail users had no idea these parcels were owned by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) nor were they aware of the significance of this. Since 1995 most of the 644 acres owned by the CMHC have been zoned as PRO (Park, Recreational and Open Space), the exception being the 110-acre parcel that butts up against Mount Seymour Parkway which, while undeveloped, is zoned residential. *

cmhc_signage2

One of the 25 signs erected on Mount Seymour where trails enter land owned by the CMHC. Before this the CMHC has shown no interest in managing the land or restricting access.

I first heard about the land owned by the CMHC on Mount Seymour in relation to a trail project being funded by the organizers of the North Shore Ripper. Asian Adonis was not sanctioned by the NSMBA nor the CMHC but it was extremely well built in terms of water and slope management. When contrasted with the rough and tight lines the North Shore is famous for, Asian Adonis was a welcome trail experience with ample flow and well-sculpted berms and rollers. It’s a beauty of a trail.

“As a trail runner and mountain biker, I can assure you that many trail runners (while not as organized) support NSMBA and are following this situation closely. Yes, I think it’s unfair that blame has seemingly been placed on the MTB community (or at least that’s how it’s perceived) and not other activities. CMHC has been a passive landowner in a prime location for trails. By being passive, it’s become a world renown destination that has umpteen benefits to our health and well being as well as our future kids.” – comment on NSMB.com bulletin board

Before this the North Shore Mountain Bike Association (or NSMBA – with whom we currently have no affiliation) conducted little maintenance or trail development on CMHC lands but since that time they have directed substantial energy into that area resulting in some of the best riding and hiking experiences on the North Shore. John Deere is a fantastic new line as are the climbing trails Penny Lane and Good Sir Martin. It’s one of the few areas on the Shore where it’s possible to climb and descend entirely on singletrack and the zone has become increasingly popular. The trails that are designated as climbing only for bikes are extremely compatible with runners and hikers who are frequently seen in the area.

monica_craver

Monica Craver, known to mountain bikers as ‘The Frog Lady’ has been actively campaigning to have the CMHC take action regarding mountain bike trails on Mount Seymour. It’s not clear if Ms. Craver, who resides near the bottom of Mt. Fromme, uses this land or if she simply wants to prevent mountain bikers from riding the trails. Her actions have often suggested her primary motivation is a dislike of mountain bikers because her justification for opposing us changes opportunistically.  Ms. Craver must be aware that the signage impacts all trail users including hikers, runners and dog walkers. If she was fond of using the area then she is now restricted as well.

Signs near mountain biking and other trails on the North Shore aren’t new. There have been signs on Cypress and Fromme for decades and generally these are considered to either be remnants of a bygone era or legal tactics to avoid liability. The 25 new signs fail to identify a landowner and there is no contact info included. It seems the CMHC would rather not advertise the fact that they own the property.

Deer John is one of the trails affected by the CMHC closures. Photo - Dave Smith

Deer John is one of the trails affected by the CMHC closures. Photo – Dave Smith

The CMHC spoke to Global TV on Thursday afternoon and provided a new statement through spokesperson Karinw Leblanc. “At its core, this is a safety issue. We recognize the concerns raised as a result of this updated signage. Currently, steps are being taken to engage with interested parties, including the province and the local municipality, with a view to considering options for future use and ensuring a co-ordinated approach to managing and monitoring the use of the property.”

Trails affected include Severed Dick, Good Sir Martin, R & R, Rapid Transit, Rapid Transit Connector, Pussyfoot, Sticks & Stones, C-Buster, Corkscrew, Pangor Connector, Blair Range, Bridle, Cardiac, Salamander, Power Line, Penny Lane, Asian Adonis, Shorn and Academy Climb.

Trails affected include Dale’s, Severed Dick, Good Sir Martin, R & R, Rapid Transit, Rapid Transit Connector, Pussyfoot, Sticks & Stones, C-Buster, Corkscrew, Pangor Connector, Blair Range, Bridle, Cardiac, Salamander, Power Line, Penny Lane, Asian Adonis, Shorn and Academy Climb. Image courtesy of Trail Forks.

A statement issued by the nsmba is advising riders to obey the signs erected by the CMHC for the time being:

In light of the No Trespassing signs being installed on Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) land in the Mount Seymour area, known locations listed above, the North Shore Mountain Bike Association is urging its members to respect the signage while we investigate their origin. 

The NSMBA is attempting to contact the CMHC, which has historically been a hands-off landowner, and will communicate to the community through our website and on our Facebook page any changes in their official position.

As of the time of posting all NSMBA trail maintenance activity has been suspended in the area and riders are urged to respect the signs as posted.

At this point it’s difficult to know what the CMHC’s goals are. It’s possible the agency is trying to force the District’s hand, to punish the municipality for not allowing them to develop the land or to simply avoid liability. There is no indication they plan to enforce these boundaries or to begin actively managing the land. Over the years they have been extremely unresponsive when contacted by trail groups and users and their sudden interest does not seem to be a good sign. Let’s hope this doesn’t end up restricting trail use over the long term, because the loss of these trails would be a huge blow to the North Shore community.


How Did CMHC Come To Own This Land?

The land currently owned by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) was appropriated from the District of North Vancouver in 1927. A total of five parcels with an area of 644 acres were claimed by the Department of National Defence to build a rifle range. Only the southernmost parcel, adjacent to Mount Seymour Parkway, was used for this purpose. The District wanted $50,000 for the parcel but DND only ended up paying half that.

Blair Range, named in 1930 after Major R.M. Blair, a Seaforth Highlander sharpshooter, was built largely by displaced unemployed men who were paid no more than $1 per day. Until 1936, when a single tractor arrived, the work was done entirely by hand. Once finished the range was used by various regiments until the 1960s.

In 1968 a base was established in Chilliwack and Blair Range was declared surplus and transferred to the Federal Government. The District of North Vancouver tried to purchase the land for half of its $110,000 assessed value, but Ottawa wanted market value which they pegged at $1 million. DNV Council at the time decided that having the land transferred to the CMHC would prevent either the DND or the Federal Government from sitting on the land and waiting for it to appreciate. It was felt that hasty development was the best route forward for the 644 acres. At this time the, what was then known as the Squamish Indian Band applied to purchase the southernmost 110 acres to establish a new reserve, which contained the only potential road access. It’s thought that the sale to the CMHC was in part an effort to prevent the Band’s purchase which would have made development of the remaining 530 acress impossible.

The CMHC paid $1,846,500 for the land in 1968.*** It has been suggested that the Crown Corporation has wanted to develop the land since that time, but they have been foiled by opposition from both the municipality and residents. 

In 1995 the District had the parcels above the original rifle range zoned as Park, blocking future development. The CMHC challenged this in court but the DNV prevailed. It’s been said that animosity from that battle persists to this day between the CMHC and the DNV. B.C. assessment currently values the 110-acre site of Blair Range at just over $57 million. The rest of the property is potentially worth another $150 million. 

Most of the research for this comes from an excellent article written by Donna Sacuta. Link here.

*This parcel, the former site of the Blair Rifle Range has been found to be contaminated by lead, copper and zinc. There could also be unexploded ordinances remaining.

**The CMHC fought hard against this zoning change taking it to the B.C. Supreme Court. The Court found in favour of the District of North Vancouver in 2000. It has been suggested that the legal battle between the CMHC and the DNV lead to animosity between the two entities that endures today.

***I have seen several references to joint ownership of the property by the Province of B.C. and CMHC but I have yet to uncover documents supporting this.


Here are some links and email address for those who would like to contact either the CMHC or the elected representatives responsible for Mount Seymour. Please do so respectfully.

https://www.cmhc-schl.gc.ca/en/corp/cous/index.cfm     contactcentre@cmhc.ca

http://terrybeech-parl.ca/      Terry.Beech@parl.gc.ca

https://www.leg.bc.ca/learn-about-us…rnthwaite-Jane     jane.thornthwaite.MLA@leg.bc.ca

https://www.dnv.org/our-government/mayor-and-council


I would like to urge you to consider how you portray our community online and on the trails when dealing with this issue. While the CMHC is a Crown Corporation, meaning it is owned by you and me, the corporation has a legal right to restrict access to the property that has been deeded to them. Let’s let the dust settle some and demonstrate what we know to be true; that most mountain bikers are responsible and considerate trail users who greatly appreciate the natural experiences we are afforded here in North Vancouver.


 

Trending on NSMB

Comments

mike-stewart
0
Mike Stewart  - Oct. 31, 2016, 9:15 p.m.

It's not your land go to Whistler and and build your little bridges there .leave it alone and let us log it just as it was logged where your house is.

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nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Nov. 1, 2016, 10:01 a.m.

Assumption, nonsense and true but immaterial.

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jitenshakun
0
Jitensha Kun  - Oct. 31, 2016, 8:12 a.m.

So, who do people think is going to enforce the CMHC's rules? Re-purpose RCMP from Vancover gangland murders to hide in the woods and ticket hikers? CMHC office drones expected to trade in their office clothing for gore-tex and hide in the woods waiting for a MTB'er?

Looking at this from the outside it looks like bluster related to fear of litigation rather than a real attempt to close off an area to use.

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nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Oct. 31, 2016, 8:38 a.m.

Agreed. As it stands now this hubbub does nothing to inhibit me riding there.

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Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Oct. 31, 2016, 4:21 p.m.

Individually no, however for groups holding racesto a trail running/MTB club to guiding and learn to MTB co.'s, they would be contravening the fine print in insurance policies and open to litigation in the event of an accident. It's more about the big picture as many of these organisations also contribute back to community through various means.

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nat-brown
0
Nat Brown  - Oct. 31, 2016, 5:20 p.m.

I'd say that's a small, but significant aspect of the big picture, so I think you're right. I don't think all this is a farce. It's just not that far from it, and given the history I can see where the sensitivity comes from.

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AlanB
0
AlanB  - Oct. 30, 2016, 10:57 a.m.

I'll say what I said elsewhere. Much remains to be done ironing out the details, but this is a very encouraging start.

If CMHC is open to engaging in cooperative management, then we're all way
ahead of where we used to be. Good news for the trails! Very good news!

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craw
0
Cr4w  - Oct. 28, 2016, 8:24 p.m.

What's really important is how she brought us all together!

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brente
0
brente  - Oct. 23, 2016, 10:04 a.m.

I think that the signs have been up before back about 45 years when we dirt biked in the Blair range ignoring them and I don't think much has changed on ignore the dam things and carry on playing people. It is owned by our government which makes it our land since we own the government ,so have fun people and carry on.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - Oct. 31, 2016, 4:24 p.m.

Again, only for individual users, not for races, clubs or business.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - Oct. 21, 2016, 10:08 a.m.

Donna Sacuta's research paper is interesting an I recommend reading it. It's 46 pages, but it's well documented. What I found interesting was the up to 27,000 ppm of lead, zinc and I believe, copper samplings from a soil sampling study on the former range (400 ppm is acceptable for soil to be used as back fill for housing) as well as the distinct probability of unexploded ordinance, including hand grenades and mortar shells.

While all the soil on the range does not have these issues, remediation is not cheap or a uncomplicated fix and could potentially run into the 10's of millions especially considering locating, accessing, removing and the safe disposal of contaminated soil, spent and unexploded ordinance. While property values are unquestionably high, do the remediation costs outweigh the profits? Maybe, maybe not.

IMO, given CMHC's glacial amount of movement on the property since in nearly 50 years and historical complete lack of communication with the local tax payers who help pay their very wages (yes, I'm pulling that card out), I expect a general PFO tone to any communiques.

I'm smelling a well-worded ATIP request. CMHC, you better start deleting those emails and backups off your Exchange servers, pronto.

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CoilAir
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CoilAir  - Oct. 21, 2016, 9:33 a.m.

I see that MC has deleted the Facebook post pictured above. I wonder why? Careful what you wish for, you just might get it! Not only did she help get MTB users banned, she helped get ALL trail users banned! Haha, oopsie daisy!

*Please note I said "helped". In know way do I think she's directly responsible for anything.

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cam@nsmb.com
0
Cam McRae  - Oct. 21, 2016, 10:54 a.m.

The post was reported to FB. Likely related to a comment but I'm not sure why.

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Brocklanders
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yahs  - Oct. 22, 2016, 10:51 a.m.

She has also made her twitter feed private. Must have received a bit of backlash. #blueridgelovesmonica

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Brocklanders
0
yahs  - Oct. 22, 2016, 10:57 a.m.

She daily spews hatred towards the mtb community on twitter. When someone calls her out she hashtags #rcmp and cries that we are threatening her, which is not the case. Really sad. #blueridgelovesmonica

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Oct. 24, 2016, 11:17 a.m.

What twitter handle does she use? I can't find her.

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Brocklanders
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yahs  - Oct. 24, 2016, 11:56 a.m.

@mecraver

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extraspecialandbitter
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ExtraSpecialandBitter  - Oct. 25, 2016, 8:58 a.m.

Dear lord, she is even more bat shit crazy than I thought. That fb post is awful. Leave your dogs at home where they're safe. Don't let them outside, the forest is not their natural environment. wtf? That dog probably lived a fuller and happier life than she could ever dream of.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - Oct. 31, 2016, 4:25 p.m.

Take the high road. Don't stoop. She baits uses it as ammo.

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nat-brown
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Nat Brown  - Nov. 1, 2016, 10:18 a.m.

It's an interesting one. Of course don't stoop, but that's always the case. It's pretty clear that she's prone to frequently writing things that are thoughtless, stupid, ignorant and/or based on some very strange values. I'd say her writing defines her as a fundamentalist. Every single time I've tried to engage her to justify/defend/rationalise something she's written she's ultimately left the conversation. I never get personal, although I concede I'm borderline here. All of that said, sometimes I see comments from riders that approach fundamentalism also. Riding trails is not the most important thing in society, be it pro or anti.

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Captain-Snappy
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Merwinn  - Nov. 1, 2016, 1:40 p.m.

By avoiding reasoned two-way discussion, she justifies her irrational belief structure thus fueling her crusade. I can't imagine dedicating years to vilify a subset of trail users simply because I don't approve of the method they choose to enjoy local trails. It must be emotionally taxing. Truly a fundamentalist and sad for so many reasons.

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kwl
0
KWL  - Oct. 21, 2016, 9:11 a.m.

I happened to be up there when two men were putting up one of the signs a few weeks back. He suggested (bear in mind this is a rough quote) that the CMHC was doing this to cover themselves, especially in relation to built structures, and that nothing would really change in terms of access. He also said that the CMHC no longer wanted to be an absentee landlord. I find that hard to believe though.

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Lee-Lau
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Lee Lau  - Oct. 21, 2016, 1:16 p.m.

KWL can I get a statement from you on that? leetlau@gmail.com would be great if possible. For an article

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kwl
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KWL  - Oct. 22, 2016, 10:16 a.m.

Bear in my mind it's a rough paraphrase of the conversation we had but sure. I'll email.

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craw
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Cr4w  - Oct. 21, 2016, 8:50 a.m.

Thanks for the overview. As folks on the boards pointed out: how can holdings of a crown corporation be considered private property?

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drewm
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DrewM  - Oct. 21, 2016, 12:29 p.m.

And the inverse is also pointed out. If it is private, not crown, property why haven't they been paying property taxes? Having their cake and eating it too.

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cam@nsmb.com
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Cam McRae  - Oct. 21, 2016, 6:33 p.m.

This is something I couldn't get an answer about.

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shirleygail
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Shirleygail  - Oct. 21, 2016, 4:02 p.m.

This is the riddle I can't quite get my mind wrapped around. We're on our own property, but we're not allowed to care for it? The built-in bridges make the area much safer for all. It's good that there's a presence there. How can ONE person's complaint have SO much power, when there are so many more people taking care of the forest, so many people who use the forest and need the forest for soul respite. How can it turn into shutting us all out? Ridiculous.

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yvr
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YVR  - Oct. 24, 2016, 7:33 a.m.

BC Hydro and BC Transit are also Crown Corporations - the public doesn't have free access to these facilities either. 'Crown' doesn't immediately mean 'public welcome - do what you like'.

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