Protesters want OHV use to continue in Castle parks area

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More than 200 off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts gathered in front of the McDougall Centre in Calgary on Saturday to call on the provincial government not to phase out use of machines in the Castle parks area in the southwest corner of the province.

In January, the government announced it would phase out all access by OHVs in five years in the Castle parks area — which includes Castle Provincial Park and Castle Wildland Provincial Park.

Debbie Johnson, a lifelong OHV rider, says users aren't as destructive as some think.

"People do take care of the land when they go there, they don't just rip it up, we go out there to enjoy the scenery," she said. "It's a beautiful area. There's trails. There's a few who don't respect the land but most people do."

Mike Dobovich, the land advocacy director with the Rocky Mountain Dirt Riders Association, says protesters want to work with government, not against them.

"We are hoping our message will be heard by this government and we can start to have active engagement so that we can move forward with the next steps as to how we can have these managed OHV use areas that allow random camping and OHV use in a sustainable manner," he said.

"Our hope is we can get together with this government… to come up with a solution so we can have what we have been asking for, for years, a well-managed, properly engineered trail system that mitigates erosion, has sensitivities for wildlife and impacts on other users taken into consideration so we can have a place to enjoy and get out there and do this responsibly."

Those in favour of the ban held an information session, simultaneously.

Kevin van Tighen says they'll keep holding sessions until the ban is implemented.

"It would be wrong not to continue to sort of push for public awareness of the values of the parks and the importance of  moving the motorized vehicles out of them," he said.

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