Running with the Buffalo in Elk Island NP

The latter half of October saw witness to IMBA Canada’s latest National Parks visit in Elk Island National Park, Alberta. The purpose of said visit was to conduct an in-depth assessment of the +100 km of trails that can be found in the Park. Each of the 11 trails in the Park were covered while being examined for sustainability. The outcome of all this data collection is the development of a general trail plan for Elk Island National Park. The Park hopes to use this plan to redevelop their outdoor recreational landscapes as well as further their educational merit, both cultural and ecological.

While not my favourite way to do an assessment, the ATV was ultimately necessary due to the time frame within which the work was to be done and the whole bison situation. Mountain biking in Elk Island is not a “recommended” activity because potential safety concerns between bison and users. What is the problem? Mountain bikers tend to travel at a relatively fast pace and with minimal noise. This, in conjunction with blind corners, can result in spooking bison. I don’t know about you but the last thing I want on my hands is a 2200 lbs. animal with sharp, pointy horns being spooked.

So why is “IMBA” doing this work if there isn’t any mountain biking in the Park?

Ultimately, it is because of our growing relationship with Parks Canada, founded on our knowledge of sustainable trail construction and outdoor recreation as a whole that we are working in EINP. Projects such as these help to further that relationship and open doors in other parks to possible mountain biking opportunities.

The final trail plan will incorporate hiking and nordic trails throughout the Park, highlighting the beautiful landscapes that EINP has to offer: wetlands, grasslands, spruce & birch forests which provide homes to countless species for visitors to watch. In my ten days in EINP I encountered countless bison as well as coyotes, beaver, golden eagles and more!

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