The Calgary ATV Riders (CARA) take their role as stewards of the trail systems in the Ghost to heart and have been doing so since 2014.

Recently they participated with the Ghost Watershed Alliance in an annual late spring cleanup, but their commitment extends far beyond that.

CARA vice-president Jen Devolder explains they maintain and grade trails and develop new ones in cooperation with Alberta Environment and Protected Areas, several volunteer organizations and 10 corporate partners.

For nearly a decade they have ensured the trails remain sustainable and safe for people to use.

"If we want to see the trails kept open and we want to see them be sustained and used properly, we decided we needed to give back and partner with Environment and Parks and partner with the fabulous people in the Ghost Community and as well as Ghost Watershed Society," she explains.

They've also worked with others, like Trout Unlimited, the Rocky Mountain Group Riders Association and Trails for Tomorrow.

Also helping to make it possible are grants from the Alberta Off-Highway Vehicles Association (AOHVA), which promotes responsible and respectful riding, safety and education, environmental stewardship and advocates for off-highway vehicles.

trails 2Annually, CARA takes on projects like this to ensure the Ghost trail systems are safe to travel. (photos/CARA)

trails 3

Their first Stewardship Days, May 31 to June 1, 2014, laid a strong foundation for what has followed. That year, 20 volunteers stepped forward to drain over 20 mud holes, and repair four major
areas of concern that their members identified.

"The most labour intensive was a large hole just before the tree line along Meadow Creek Trail.  It took 16 volunteers 3.5 hours to complete the repair with trees, gravel and dirt, a total of 56-man hours, including two very young boys who worked just as hard as the adults to help out in every way they could.  The volunteers used picks, shovels, chainsaws and brute strength to accomplish all the work."

She says by the end, they were all tired and sore, but proud of what they accomplished.

Fast forward to this year, 79 people volunteered 534 hours.

"We do have our events throughout the year, but stewardship is our way to give back to the community. We're always riding in the community and we're always giving back, but it's a way to work with various organizations and say, OK, here's what we're going to work on."

trails 1CARA volunteers do extensive trail maintenance and grading as part of their stewardship in the Ghost. (photo/CARA)

She says they've established such a strong relation with Alberta Environment that CARA was called upon one winter to help remove 300 fallen trees in preparation for an equestrian event. She says they didn't hesitate to step forward.

"We don't get to ride those trails and we loved helping out the equestrian folks with their shows. That was Sibbald Creek area, not the Ghost, but we're all about giving back and riding safely."

Annually, they work with the Ghost Watershed Alliance Society (GWAS) to clean up garbage left in the random camping areas. She says campers are doing a better job of cleaning up. Last year, they filled a 21.0-yd. dumpster; this year they filled a 11.5-yd. dumpster.

"The funny thing, you know, is a lot of people don't realize how physically intense litter picking is between the squatting, reaching, grabbing, pushing and pulling and walking, so we're always really happy to see new people come out and try it."

Like GWAS, they say the gun ranges are the most littered but are pleased to hear the hunting clubs have a cleanup in the works.

On Sept. 21, CARA is holding their annual Ride 4 Smiles event that provides off-road adventures to seriously ill children with the Starlight Children's Foundation of Canada. The day is spent at the Ghost airstrip providing children and their families a full day of activities and rides.

CARA has about 100 members, but the number of people involved is actually much higher. Memberships are for families, meaning each could be for as little as two people and as many as seven.

Click here to learn more about CARA.