More than a dozen trail-marking signs that were torn off trees near Minnedosa have been returned, but the incident has left members of the Prairie Mountain Cycling Association scratching their heads over the vandal’s motives.
Dave Ternier, a member of the cycling association, said the group received a $1,000 grant last year from the Minnedosa and District Recreation Commission to have aluminum-composite trail signs made. The signs were to mark hiking and cycling trails in the area, which he said was about making it more accessible and help guide the trails for residents.
On Christmas Day, Ternier said a post went up on the group’s public Facebook page inviting people to use the trails and get into the great outdoors.
"It looks like someone took that invitation a little far," Ternier said.
Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day, someone pulled 27 of the approximately 40 signs off the trees they were mounted to. In some cases, the screws that held the signs in place are still in the trees, so someone just yanked them off.
Ternier called the incident "bizarre."
"More than half of the signs were torn down. We, to this day, have no idea who or why," he said. "It’s a bit of a mystery."
Perplexed alongside other cycling association members, Ternier said the community at large is "incredible" and people proudly maintain their recreation spaces, so the signs going missing was an anomaly.
"I was just a little perplexed, that’s kind of weird. Surely, there must be an explanation for it and we thought it would come out in the wash at some point," he said.
After approximately a week the group made a police report and Ternier posted in the association’s Facebook group to let people know what happened. The tone wasn’t attacking the alleged thief, Ternier said, just informing other trail users they were missing.
Within 24 hours, 22 of the signs had been returned.
"We know nothing aside from the fact they were wearing a jacket, walked by the Minnedosa and District Recreation Commission front office and just casually left a bag outside the front door," he said.
"Lo and behold, almost all the signs were there."
The association is hoping to find the other five signs in the spring, he said.
Paul Archbutt, one of the founding members and treasurer of Prairie Mountain Cycling, said he didn’t believe the person from the recreation commission when they first called him to say how the signs had been found.
Members of the group have already put the returned signs marking the trails back up.
"I think it’s just an issue with educating the public about how to use trails properly and what they’re used for," he said. "It’s a process of making the public aware that we as a mountain biking club have permission by the landowners to use and maintain the trails and also build trails."
With all the attention the missing signs have received, Ternier said more people have expressed interest in the club, especially around fat biking. Fat bikes have wider wheels than regular bikes and can be ridden in the snow.
"I only discovered it like four months ago. I only bought a fat bike in September, so I’m going to use the awareness of this as a way to encourage more people to check it out now and build more of a community around it," Ternier said.
Despite the inconvenience, Ternier said he and the rest of the association are just glad the trail signs were returned.
"Look, everybody has made a mistake in their lifetime, but very few of those people have the internal fortitude to go, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have done this, how can I undo this?’ To whoever did this and had a change of heart, some kudos has to go that way regardless."
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