Skull Saboteur to be Sentenced Jan. 21st
It’s likely she never would have been caught. If Ms. Tineke Kraal hadn’t ramped up her debris-strewing campaign to include Lower Skull, she probably would have continued into her golden years without disruption. Before this escalation she had stayed off the radar, pulling logs and branches over rarely ridden trails – and some that were hardly trails at all. Mountain bikers in the area have noticed unnaturally placed debris in these areas for at least ten years. But once she took on Skull, the community began to talk, and two mountain bikers decided to take action.
Gordon Berg and Shaun Rivers were introduced by the staff of Lynn Valley Bikes late in 2014. They shared a passion to discover the identity of the saboteur, not to enact revenge or mountain-side justice, but to foil this relentless campaign permanently. Their carefully orchestrated operation made it clear they are not vigilantes. Once they knew Ms. Kraal’s schedule they made sure they were nowhere near the area while she was out on her daily, pre-dawn excursions. Their resolve, tenacity and complementary skills made them a formidable team – and mountain bikers here and elsewhere should be glad they met.
I have spoken with these gentlemen and interviewed one extensively. In fact I have been in communication with Gord Berg since Ms. Kraal was arrested, but both men, at that time, wished to keep their identities out of the media. The full scope of their efforts has now been revealed to me, and it’s truly impressive. I have agreed not to share these particulars until Ms. Kraal’s 30-day appeal window has closed, but if no appeal is launched I intend to lay it for you then. I can tell you that the time, expense and carefully planning and documentation of their efforts was beyond what I would expect even from law enforcement professionals. Without their highly detailed approach, it’s clear we wouldn’t now be seeing this matter resolved with a guilty plea and, shortly, sentencing.
Once their evidence was presented to North Vancouver RCMP, an apprehension plan was put in place, and an arrest was made at 5:00 am on January 2nd, 2015. Ms Kraal, then 64, was taken to the detachment that morning but formal charges weren’t laid for several days. The charges the Crown put forward evolved over time and she eventually pleaded guilty to violation 430 5.1 b.
At an earlier court appearance Mark Myhre indicated that the Crown would seek a conditional sentence, also referred to as house Arrest. The maximum sentence for summary offences is a fine of $5000 and six months jail time. Ms Kraal’s lawyer has indicated he would be seeking a conditional discharge on January 21st, 2016.
At one point Robert Kraal, Tineke’s husband, went to the media to suggest that his wife’s actions were performed in self defence and that she was simply attempting to slow mountain bikers down for her own safety. A letter Mr. Kraal wrote to North Vancouver District Council in 2005 painted a different picture and eroded this narrative. He stated plainly that he and his wife were at war with mountain bikers, and that their beef was about parking. In fact Mr Kraal didn’t suggest mountain bikers were the primary target for his anger; it was North Van District Council’s decision to implement resident only parking that motivated his actions.
Some of the debris strewn over the trail was simply a nuisance; harmless branches that riders could easily ride over. At other times it was necessary to dismount and clear more substantial debris in order to proceed. Some of the debris placement suggests a different motive. Several years ago I began to notice logs placed around corners on steep sections of trail. Some were at a right angle to the trail while others were placed lengthwise, but with ends on each side of the trail. These low angled logs on steep sections were impossible to navigate and I was forced to ditch into the bush on one occasion. At other times debris was placed below a drop, invisible from above. It’s no stretch to conclude these obstacles were placed at best to scare mountain bikers out of the area, and perhaps even to cause injury.
Despite this, it seems to me that a stiff sentence is unnecessary at this point. The best outcome would be for Ms Kraal to indicate she understands the danger her actions posed, the actual and potential harm these actions caused, and that she now sees the error of her ways. If she sincerely communicates this then a sentence that precludes her from entering the forest for some time, combined with a substantial number of community service hours, seems appropriate.
Mountain bikers, like every segment of society, are sometimes known to behave badly. As a community we are getting better, but it’s certain mistakes will be made in the future. A vindictive approach to matters like this will make it difficult for us to ask the community for a second chance the next time one of us messes up. Instead we can take an active role in healing this wound in our community, and forgiveness, humility and kindness are the best way forward.
I will report on the sentencing hearing after its conclusion tomorrow.
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