Members of the Haney Horsemen and other equestrian users will be riding the Thornhill Trails in large numbers this weekend. (Haney Horsemen/Special to The News)

Members of the Haney Horsemen and other equestrian users will be riding the Thornhill Trails in large numbers this weekend. (Haney Horsemen/Special to The News)

Horsemen out in force in Maple Ridge this weekend

Riders assert need to save Thornhill Trails for equestrian users

The equestrian users of the Thornhill Trails will be out in large numbers on the Maple Ridge trails this weekend, protesting city plans for the recreation area on Grant Hill.

Janet Dmitrieff, a former president of the Haney Horsemen, has organized riders and hikers to fill the trails this weekend. They will assert their rights to maintain the trails, and save them for equestrian users.

“Community groups are coming together. I have people trailering in from outside of this community. I even had a group of dog walkers. Everyone wants to protect Thornhill Trail,” said Dmitrieff.

The protest is in response to a city hall staff report recommending a formal maintenance agreement with the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association. It calls for a challenging “Grind” trail, styled after North Vancouver’s notorious Grouse Grind, and improvements including parking areas at trail heads, washrooms and better signage.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge city hall looks at improvements to Thornhill trails

Council referred the matter to the parks and rec committee for review, referring to public opposition to plan heard by council.

Dmitrieff said the trails on Grant Hill were blazed by Bill Archibald and Sherman Olson for riders on horseback. Archibald, constructed numerous trails throughout Maple Ridge and into Golden Ears Park. They were members of numerous equestrian groups and founding members of the Haney Horsemen.

“Every weekend they would go build trails, and pretty soon they had a huge network,” said Dmitrieff.

So the Haney Horsemen has had a long association with the city. She does not want to see these traditional horse trails taken over by cyclists and other trail users. She said “we have no problem with bikes if they’re courteous,” but adds that bikes speeding downhill can be incompatible with horses, dog walkers and other trail users.

Dmitrieff wants the responsibility for maintenance to stay with the Haney Horsemen, and no Grind at all.

“Go have your grind on Blue Mountain – we’ve given up on it anyway,” she advised the city. “It was a very, very poorly thought-out proposal.”

Lee Hughes of the Fraser Valley Mountain Bike Association liked it.

“Our goal is to get the city to have signage, to make it more user friendly for all user groups,” he said. “We don’t want to take anything away from the equestrian people.”

Hughes, the area rep for the FVMBA, said the informal Thornhill trail network would benefit from signs showing multi-use trails, designated horse trails, routes for walkers and bike-only trails.

He lives in the area, is on the trails walking or riding several times a week, and said generally everyone tries to get along. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the paths are increasingly busy, he said.

“The trails are great for families and children,” he said. “It’s fun to get people into our sport, and it has exploded out there.”

Hughes said he sympathizes with equestrian users, acknowledging there are fewer places they can ride safely. When he moved to Maple Ridge 20 years ago, it was more common to see people on horseback riding on the side of the road. Now, traffic seems to have deterred them.

“They are losing riding areas, and we don’t want to take anything away.”

He said the FVMBA wants signage and maps at the trailheads, better parking and washrooms, and they have submitted a maintenance agreement. They train people in trail maintenance, and follow international standards.

Hughes said the bikers are not allowed to host races, but they did host social rides at Thornhill before the pandemic.

“I did a little talk at the last one about horse riders and trail etiquette,” he said.

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