Here we go again — in the Ghost

In the recent Ghost Access Management Plan it was agreed that ATVs would not be allowed in the Ghost River valley because their use was not compatible with well established hiking, climbing and equestrian activity in the area. So what’s happening now?

The dirt bike riders, perhaps encouraged by recent logging along the TransAlta access road and the new parks plan, are lobbying very hard for a trail in the non-motorized area. It would be a figure 8 loop crossing the Ghost River 3 times and climbing onto the end of Black Rock Mountain in the area known to climbers as the Anti-Ghost. We’ve seen the damage done in this area by bikers high-pointing up scree slopes (see the pic) and driving all over soft sandy slopes near the river. We find it completely unacceptable that the government would even consider making this kind of activity legal in an area that verges on several critical wildlife zones.

Map showing approximate area under discussion

Map showing approximate area under discussion

Make your feelings known ASAP by emailing Michael Lickers of the Trails Committee of the Ghost Access Management Plan at Michael is with us on this issue and wants to get as many emails as possible to present at the next meeting. He particularly wants to hear from clubs and organizations, who have more clout than individuals.

Dirt bike damage in the Anti Ghost are

Dirt bike damage in the Anti Ghost area

26 comments… add one
  • kirk Jun 15, 2017, 10:33 pm

    its really sad that some that do the sport ruin it for those like me that follow the rules. and just want to enjoy the area like many others

  • Gillean Daffern Oct 26, 2015, 10:09 pm

    In the McLean Creek OHV area over 1000 tickets were issued this summer for infractions including riding off designated trails. You’ll be happy to know that the crackdown, that involves the hiring of more temporary staff, will be extended to the Ghost in 2016.

  • Anonymous Oct 26, 2015, 4:12 pm

    Encountered one party of 8 illegal dirt bikers on Lesueur Ridge on Sunday October 25th. Clearly marked no motorized vehicles on the road. They were quite openly flaunting the closure and made no claims to be ignorant of the facts. The “discussion” with one of them was rather heated but not productive. Rather ruined what was a nice day hike.

  • Derek May 11, 2015, 8:25 am

    Kim pretty much just said it all. Ohv users can stay out. Ive been going to the north south ghost and much further in on foot since the mid 90’s. There were almost no restrictions in place back then and it was almost the wild west. The valley was getting trashed and destroyed, the trails were marked and reduced by two thirds. Things slowed down and the valley could breath for a while. Now it seems worse than ever before. Between the permanent bunker camp sites being built on the anti ghost ridge near the top of the big hill near the road to the climbers huts by johnson creek. The use of ohv’s, horse riding tours leaving trash everywhere along their trails and burnt out vehicles. Not to mention the amount of gun use………its getting pretty bad even worse than before. Respect the land or get out. If people want to use their quads bikes and trucks the people before them shouldnt have wrecked it. A lot of them still perpetuate it when I see them ripping up
    creek beds and througn forest sections clearly off trail. Just saying let the land breath.

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  • KW Jul 15, 2012, 4:21 pm

    In Alberta the sustainable resource development branch of the government has been in charge of the public lands since the foundation of the province. Through numerous studies and years of research through having government employees in the field they have divided and classified our lands to best utilize our resources, and serve the population of Alberta. Our most pristine landscapes are protected in our National and Provincial parks systems, which i must add are some of the most extensive in the entire world. We are so blessed to live in such a diverse and wonderful landscape, and i believe our provincial governments have done a fine job in balancing the delicate social issues of economy and environment, in the best interest of the people of Alberta. The Ghost area is classified as a PLUZ or public land use zone. The area is set aside for public use, resource extraction, and for the economic benefit of the people of Alberta. We’re very lucky to have such a high standard of living in this province but this comes at a price. The Ghost area can be enjoyed by all types of recreation users, and still be held to the utmost of environmental protection through proper ATV practices, designated trails, bridges, education, etc. There is room in Alberta for everyone to enjoy the lives and hobbies of their choosing, and balancing the environmental issues we face when living in such a beautiful piece of this planet.

  • Brian Sep 17, 2011, 9:41 pm

    I have not spent much time in the Ghost area. That said, I have spent a significant amount of time in the Kananaskis South to Waterton. I agree that there are larger issues at play here in addition to the smaller individual user group interests.

    I believe that oil and gas development, logging, and cattle grazing are the three largest destructive forces at play in the forest reserve. The first two are often contemplated but the third seems to be overlooked.

    Having traveled extensively in the southern areas, it is unbelievable to me the amount of damage to high erosion areas made by cattle. I am not condoning high marking on dirt bikes, descending through alpine meadows on mountain bikes, or sliding down scree slopes in hiking boots, all of which cause environmental damage. What I am saying is that cattle urinate, defecate, compact soil and highly impact waterways, slopes adjacent to waterways and all matters within the ecological environment of the forest.

    Why is so much effort being directed at the user groups with lower levels of impact? I understand that hikers, bikers, equestrian users, OHVers all have an idea of an acceptable area. Is it possible to overcome these issues with designated trail systems, education and enforcement?

  • Jon Mar 2, 2011, 11:34 am

    Hello Dustin,

    FYI Dirt bikes (two stroke) produce the equivalent pollution of 30- 50 four stroke vehicles. As I have hiked sections of the proposed dirtbike trail I would also add that trail locations are not respectful of erosion or tree damage.

  • darin Apr 21, 2010, 10:49 pm

    My conundrum is why should I follow the rules when I know the small footprint that I make is nothing but a tear drop in the damage caused by logging. You closed the trails I used to love riding and where I never encountered anyone, horse or hiker, because you claimed I damaged the land…and then you strip log it and lay waste so that a hiker/biker/horse enthusiast can’t even think about venturing across the land. You have instilled no confidence in your management of our resources and your hipocracy will not get my vote or my respect. See you on the trails legal or not!

  • Dave Duncan Jan 10, 2010, 6:43 pm

    K-country is not a park, and it too has been and will be logged eventually. People tend to forget this, especially in K-country and now in the Ghost. Good point though! K-country is a prime example of a forest reserve that has had laws laid down to stop OHVs running wild. People now assume it is a park. It works! MacLean creek has become the designated “off-road area” however it closes down for winter and this pushes all the off roaders into the Ghost.
    The Ghost is also the source of power for Banff. The water was diverted into a dammed valley (Minnawanka) and when you think about it, it’s a clean power source for Banff, thus “Ghost” (no water) River. If it was not for Trans Alta building the road into the Ghost, we would not even be having these discussions. If Trans Alta where trying to do the same thing now, there would be a lot more arms up in the air.
    The Ghost is an awesome area that has world class climbing. I personally think the “Ghost” is the bottom of the “Big Hill” and above that is forest reserve. I think of the logged area as just access to the Ghost. I myself climb (ice and rock), hunt, and off-road (to access all these activities). I hunt above the “big hill” and I climb, obviously west of that. I see two worlds and sometimes three when you include dirt bikers. I’ve been on the “Ridge” having a picnic with my family and I’ve gotten into a fight with a dirt biker after he almost smoked my 2 year old with his bike. I’ve rolled into the Ghost on a Monday morning to witness all the trashed left behind from long week-end parties. I’ve sat on the Ridge and watched half a dozen “off-roaders” driving up (in) the river. I’ve also led some of the best ice pitches of my life in the Ghost. I’ve had my truck charged by a Grizzly sow with a couple of cubs above the big hill.
    The Ghost is an amazing place that has all impacted us (good and bad). We need to appreciate it at this time, in this decade. Someday there might be a highway going up the guts of it with an interpretive centre, a restaurant and a Grey Hound full of tourists. I feel that we need to look further into the future to protect the Ghost. I would love to see my son one day go out and buy a “good” 4×4 so he can access an ice climb or rock route. I also agree with David Wagner, that we need to look at the big picture as well. The Ghost is one small area. We are blessed to have a “wilderness” area of this calibre so close to the city. We need to protect that, however as Calgary grows, we might have to travel further for a wilderness experience. I wish that someone in particular had all the answers to make everyone happy. The fact is that everything is changing. Change is part of growth and growth is inevitable.
    I apologize for not always doing my part.
    Just my thoughts, not yours!

  • colin Jan 7, 2010, 10:34 pm

    This stuff is all missing the point. The Ghost should be a park, K country North.
    What the logging is doing to the Ghost is unbelievable, they are screwing up the area for all our lifetimes, and huge damage to water ecology and everything else. How can anyone in their right mind worry about a few dirt bikes, and then let logging companies clear cut huge areas and build roads all over.
    Its criminal.
    Everyone who cares about the Ghost should be fighting the logging, that’s the real issue here.

  • Dustin Ring Jan 6, 2010, 1:52 pm

    Ok, Dirt Bikes do less damage to the environment than cars in the city do driving to work every day. I agree that in some ways it makes a footprint in the wilderness, much less than hiking. But dirt biking is a great way for family and friends to get along and just have a good time without the pressures of city life working. I’m Fifteen years old and I have been riding since I was Three. Dirtbiking is my life and I will not let the goverment take it away from me. So if the people involved in the Ghost Access Management Plan decide to take away more decent trails in Alberta we will find more, thus causing more damage than needed to the environment.

    Dirtbiking is fun, we have clubs and many different organizations that clean up many of the trails and create bridges aross rivers to better protect the environment. These people who work long hard weekends out in the Mountians such as Waiparous and McLean Creek would be verry pissed if the government overlooked their efforts, and so would I.

  • Bob dyilan Nov 4, 2009, 1:54 pm

    i agree with david

  • Bob Nov 4, 2009, 1:53 pm

    i change my stance to agreeing with david

    i cant spell

  • Bob Nov 4, 2009, 1:46 pm

    I have not read any thing on this web but i think mike is right.

  • Kim Aug 3, 2009, 4:23 pm

    I am wondering if I can post a picture of a shot up, burned up, beat up, garbage dump of a truck which has been left at an access point by some ill and demented Ghost River users. Apparently Alberta SRD has contacted the Cochrane RCMP who have yet to come and remove the pathetic demonstration of our society’s illness. For someone, “Stuart”, this sickening act was “a good time”. Also “Aaron”, I wonder who sits on the GSMG. As a stakeholder in the area myself, I wonder how many people are at the table who represent my interests of learning to connect with, respect and learn from Mother Nature rather than “ride” her everyway and everywhere they can. I think in a democracy, those who don’t agree with the majority, still have every right to express their concerns…at no time should they be shamed into silence. EVER.
    While I agree with “David” about the powers which be creating squabbles between the little folks so that the big ones can go on doing their raping and pillaging, I am concerned about the wildlife and fauna who have just as much right to this land we now call Alberta. Who speaks for them? Motorized vehicles increase accessibility tremendously and easily and their use should be limited in order to preserve the lands and its natural ways for the creatures who NEED the space to survive. While I agree we all NEED Nature recreationally, I wonder if it might also be important to ask ourselves if something else might NEED it more than our WANT for how we enjoy the space.
    As someone who works at the Rediscovery camp in the summer, lives and makes a living as a teacher in a National Park and whose partner is a motorcrosser, it breaks my heart to read some of these posts beetween those of us who are hopefully all interested in being Stewards of this land which serves us so unconditionally. For Anonymous, I truly hope the above post by “mike” is indeed Mike Lickers, for you would be liable for slander if it is not. I personally have never heard him use the language used in the post by “mike”, so I have my doubts. And whoever it may be, “mike” sounds as though he is someone who is angry about the continued abuses of the land (even some which fall under the auspices of “sustainable”) and the apparent apathy of the Alberta government to lay some money down for protection of the land which so generously feeds it. At least “mike” has the guts to put his name on his opinion…of which we are all entitled to while living in Canada.
    Additionally, I can tell you that if it is Mike Lickers, he would be extremely concerned (and rightly so) for the safety of the children who participate in the camps out of Ghost River Rediscovery. Yes, concerned for those children who are connecting with the land and water which nourishes us, the children learning to respect the Earth and to listen to it in a gentle way which many of us have forgotten. There is nothing more disturbing and fearful which could occur during this rediscovery process than the sound of speeding, drunk Yahoos through the area where the camp is, the close explosion of gunfire, the sound of chainsaws cutting down green trees at 9pm for fire wood (huh?!) or cooking tripods, the sight of ATV and motorcross tracks through where we get our drinking water or along the trails in the National Park upon which we walk gently, and the sight of fire pits the size of my backyard.
    I just received a response to a letter I wrote her from Cindy Ady, the Minister of Tourism, Parks and Rec who assured me that the government doesn’t condone the actions of which I see evidence for each time I walk down the road to the Ghost from the top of the hill. Due to the beaten up, shot and burned truck full of garbage, the garbage in the sites below and the sporadic campfire pits with tin and garbage left within, I am certain that the letter she wrote is another piece of rhetoric and I can understand where “mike” is coming from.
    Regardless, I hope we are all most interested in Stewardship and treating our Mother the way which She deserves to be treated. And some of us get a little angry at times (don’t you get angry when you see your family members being treated disrespectfully?) However, I think it is in all of our interest to work together to help to educate users and the children of these users and their children too, to rally the government for more support especially concerning enforcement (wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t need enforcement and people were simply respectful of their environment?!)
    OR, what if we create a backcountry User Test where at least one member of a group must have passed it in order to use a wild area in Alberta? A User’s Test, similar to a Driver’s License, would highlight a person’s knowledge and understanding of respectful backcountry use and minimal impact whether one is hunting, biking, hiking, climbing, or whatever. This person would then be liable for anybody they brought into the area. This exists for people carrying guns and driving cars, so why not for using wild spaces?
    in partnership for our lives on this planet,

  • stuart Jun 15, 2009, 10:04 am

    maybe you should think about the bikers that are trying to have a good time.

  • David Wagner Jun 6, 2009, 8:49 am

    First of all, I must say that I am not as familiar with all the various organizations and government groups people have mentioned in their various comments. Second, I am a hiker, mountain biker, and a responsible dirt bike (motorized) rider. I moved to Alberta a little over ten years ago from the Yukon, where I did all of the above mentioned activities.

    What I find really BEWILDERING here in Alberta is the controversy and fighting over small sections of land used by OHV users! I realize that pristine wilderness is a treasure, and in Alberta it is limited as compared to let say the Yukon. However, instead of everyone fighting over little sections of land (i.e. McLean Creek, Ghost, etc.) used by non-commercial interested parties, efforts should be focused on those activities approved and carried out by commercially motivated groups, i.e. Government, Oil, Logging, etc. Through my travels here in Alberta, I find more disturbing and inexplicable damage caused by private and public industry, than that of any recreational users.

    Focus on the big picture here, and do not let the Government bureaucrats and committees have us quibble over little sections of land. There is a place for everyone here in Alberta to have their recreational uses!

  • Anonymous May 29, 2009, 12:21 pm

    Shame on you Mike Lickers!!

    You know very well that this isn’t the proposed trail. You know very well that this trail doesn’t cross the Ghost river even ONCE. You know very well that that there isn’t ONE hill climb on the entire route.

    Shame on you for discrediting the Process and the Charter of the GSMG that you helped build and agreed to.

    Your comments are a disgrace in the face of all the hard work that was done in the GSMG for purposes of creating a sustainable trail network.

    It’s obvious that you’re afraid that the GSMG has been able to create a real plan for a real sustainable trail network. One that both meets the needs of OHV users without damaging the environment.

    Since you feel the need to make this public. Take that lie of a map down and put up the real trail proposal so it can be judged fairly. Also, please put on the map where your camp is so we can all judge fairly why you are truly opposed to this trail.

  • Aaron Bauer May 29, 2009, 11:13 am

    Trust me when I say that the responsible OHV users are just as frustrated about irresponsible OHV use in the Ghost, or any area for that matter. These types of events are perpetrated by the minority and paint the entire user group with the wrong brush. There are a lot of other issues at play here, such as lacking enforcement and funding, I could go on at length about these, but can say that changes are required on that front. The large majority of OHV users understand the need to use these areas responsibly in order to keep trails open or have any hopes of adding new trails in the Ghost.

    As it currently stands, there is only ~11km of designated single track trail in the ghost, which is severely limiting, hence the drive to add additional trails to the trail system, which is one of the mandates of the GSMG. The proposed single-track as mentioned above, In addition to the 4 points peter has mentioned above, this proposed trail has been evaluated and conforms to National Off-highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) standards, which have been recognized as best practices for OHV trails in the US and Canada (pending). All of the members of the GSMG committee (I would assume) would be privy to this information, yet some chose to do nothing about correcting misinformation within their respective user groups. The Ghost area is a designated multi-use area, this includes OHV’s.

    These last statements are going to be controversial, but will say it anyway…

    The GSMG to the best of my knowledge is supposed to deal with conflicts internally and not put them in the public domain to stir controversy. It is not fair that certain members of the GSMG who oppose the trail contravene the rules as originally set out, by encouraging letters to the SRD minister, when they feel the decision by a panel (originally created by SRD) may not go their way.

    The comment “Is the Ghost world ready for a Dirt Bike Race Track, as this is what is proposed by the dirt bike groups?” is not accurate as per reasons stated above. I would question this individuals personal/commercial reasons for making such a comment. In addition I question whether someone with an opinion has a place on the GSMG.

    I’m not on the GSMG, but would make an educated guess this type of activity/comments are not supported in the charter.

  • admin May 26, 2009, 5:03 pm

    Thank you for your comment Peter. You are right, we don’t know the exact route of the proposed trail only what we were told. It was, we understood, confidential to the Stewardship Group. However on the long weekend we saw bikers on the bank-top trail along the river, crossing the river, and riding down the big scar on the side of the Anti-Ghost.

    On your last point, while you may be technically correct, the Management Plan did not designate any motorized trails in the area except for the TransAlta Road and some short sections in the valley bottom to points such as 27, 29 and 37. The reasons were the ones I mentioned to my letter to Ted Morton.

    Can you send me a map showing the proposed route? If so send me a short email using the Contact tab on the site and I will send you my email address.

  • Peter Straub May 26, 2009, 2:13 pm

    You have four factual errors in your blog entry.

    1. The trail under consideration does not cross the Ghost River.
    2. The trail under consideration does not “climb onto Black Rock Mountain”
    3. The trail under consideration does not ‘verge onto several critical wildlife zones’
    4. This is an area designated as a ‘multi-use’ area for Motorized activity. This is not a non-motorized area, as you have stated.

  • Tony Daffern May 14, 2009, 11:07 am

    Here is a letter I have sent to Ted Morton.

    Dear Mr Morton,
    I have learned that a new ATV trail has been proposed for the Ghost River area by the Ghost Stewardship Monitoring Group. This trail would be mainly in the area between the Trans-Alta Road and the Ghost River and the area at the top of the riverbank known to climbers as the Anti Ghost. It would cross the Ghost River a number of times and use some of the tracks made by recent logging. Extensive environmental damage was done to this area prior to the management plan by unauthorized incursions by dirt bikes and quads.

    When the Ghost-Waiparous Operational Access Management Plan was developed in 2005, the planners wisely decided that there would be no ATV trails in the Ghost River valley. The reasons: soft sandy soil in much of the area, loose, steep riverbanks, and significant use by hikers and equestrians. There is also critical wildlife habitat in or adjacent to the area.

    I urge you to reject any recommendation to put an ATV trail in this environmentally sensitive area, and respectfully suggest that you retain the southern boundary for ATV use established by the Management Plan.

    For more information and a map please see “Here we go again—In the Ghost”

  • Kevin Stanton May 11, 2009, 8:55 pm

    Is the Ghost world ready for a Dirt Bike Race Track, as this is what is proposed by the dirt bike groups?

    Your photo is only one small area that has been damaged on the Ghost River banks. There are many areas starting back at Lesueur Creek, all in plain view. But now damage will be done in more remote areas in hopes no one will see. Including extensive damage around tree root systems. Without enforcement the Ghost Waiparous will be even more of a mud hole.

  • mike May 8, 2009, 12:05 pm

    You’re surprised? Come on, the Ghost is there to facilitate resource extraction, not preserve anything.

    What are we supposed to make of the closure of (parts of) the river valley to vehicles closely followed by logging the fuck out of the riverbank? The Alberta government simply doesn’t care about the environment in *parks*, let alone “forest reserve”. The brief hand-waving about bull-trout followed by pages of exceptions allowing gravel extraction, logging and mining in the GAMP plan points to the REAL motivations and goals for the Ghost river valley.

    If they really wanted to stop vehicles from driving through the river, it would have been far easier to simply extend the boundaries of the nearby wilderness areas — making it *illegal* to drive in the river. Instead, they’re getting climbers, hikers and 4×4 people to bicker with each other instead of trying to do some preservation.

    And for what it’s worth, there are plenty of responsible 4×4 users too and they’ve built tons of bridges and other mitigation infrastructure in the Ghost and Waiprous. Now they’re not going to be allowed to do this anymore because accountants think a salvaged, volunteer-built bridge “needs” to be valued at $1 million dollars. No I’m not kidding.

    The Ghost exists to be a tree-farm, gravel pit and drainage system for dams in the Alberta government’s eyes. They don’t give shit about any “damage” caused by dirt-bikes. And to be truly fair, why not post a picture of “stump-land” (as climbers now call it) so people could compare the damage from dirt bikes to the logging. I’d rather see the logging disallowed in favour of keeping the comparatively minor damage cause thus far by irresponsible dirt-bikers…

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