Worthy of the tagline “Super Natural”, British Columbia is a spectacular wilderness setting, with an impressive number of Provincial Parks and Protected Areas designed to keep it that way for generations to come. Since the establishment of Strathcona, the first provincial park in the year 1911, the parks system has grown to 1,029 protected areas, covering over 14 million hectares, or 14.4% of the province.
Managing, maintaining, and conserving such a vast region of mountains, forests, and lakes is a significant challenge for those tasked with the job, which is why Rob Wilson – the BC Ministry of the Environment’s South Fraser Area Supervisor – is constantly on the lookout for new tools to help his team operate more efficiently.
“BC Parks was graciously lent a pair of electric fat bikes to use in our Sea to Sky Corridor Parks during the summer of 2015,” Wilson recalls. “The demo fat bikes were brought out to our annual ranger training session in 2015.” There, Wilson had the opportunity to try one of the bikes: “I was really impressed; the applications for the use of these bikes seemed very diverse. I was sold after my first ride!”
With the help of a grant from the Skagit Environmental Endowment Commission, Wilson was able to purchase a pair of electric fat bikes for his team, which are utilized for a wide variety of tasks, in both planned and unplanned scenarios.
Outside of their practical uses, the bikes give staff and visitors the perfect excuse to interact. “Almost everyone reacts with wide-eyed amazement,” says Wilson. “They are a great icebreaker with the public and get a lot of attention. Many questions are asked about the bikes, and it creates an opportunity to speak with the public about trail maintenance, and the importance of reducing their impact along the trails.”
While the bikes don’t completely replace other trail access tools such as all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Wilson confirms they definitely reduced their reliance on them.
“We’ve only had the bikes for a short time,” he prefaces, and then goes on to describe three instances in which they have proven invaluable: “So far they’ve been used as access tools for a construction project in one of our campgrounds. They’ve helped us access remote trail camera sites for a wildlife-monitoring program. And they’ve been used to access one of our parks that was isolated by a road failure.”
In each of these scenarios, the bicycles leave a lighter physical and environmental footprint on the fragile BC Parks ecosystems, than their gas-powered counterparts.
Looking forward to the impending summer season, Wilson anticipates that the electric fat bikes will be a real asset to his ranger staff and volunteers: “With the capability of carrying substantial loads on their heavy-duty racks, staff and park volunteers will be utilizing them to carry chainsaws and other maintenance tools along trails where it is appropriate to do so,” he predicts. “The bikes are going to save us both time and energy, effectively extending our range into the backcountry.”
Albeit still in a trial stage with their staff and volunteers, the electric fat bikes truly appear to be a win-win scenario for BC Parks. Not only do they serve as a unique and effective mobility device for the dedicated individuals who are protecting their pristine wilderness, but also offer a significant reduction in fossil fuel consumption.
Ultimately, this means that these professionals are doing everything in their power to preserve this valuable resource for future generations, and limit the impacts of climate change. We hope that other conservation areas around the world will follow the lead of BC Parks, and consider investing in their future, two wheels at a time.
“A co-founder of Modacity, a multi-service communications and marketing firm focused on inspiring healthier, happier, simpler forms of urban mobility through words, photography and film”