An online debate sparks the question: should hiking locations be shared? (Facebook/TAHVI Ryan Douglas)

Vancouver Islanders debate publicizing hiking locations

Popular Facebook group Take A Hike Vancouver Island closed after cyber backlash

Most would say that a large part of West Coast life is embracing and exploring the outdoors – after all, B.C. offers some of the most beautiful places in the world.

But how do you strike a balance between exploration and preservation?

That was the main debate that Brandi McCallum faced on her popular online hiking community, Take A Hike Vancouver Island (TAHVI) on Facebook, which recently shut down.

READ MORE: Popular Victoria hiking group closing after facing cyberbullying

“We started the group because we wanted to find hiking buddies,” she said. “Six years ago there were no all inclusive groups… we wanted to be advocates for the outdoors.”

McCallum said a large message they pushed was the “Leave No Trace” ideology, which aims to leave nature pristine by not straying off of paths, littering, or disturbing areas. But by 2018 the community ballooned to over 42,000 members, causing messages to quickly be buried and making it impossible to account for everyone’s actions.

This resulted in a chaotic schedule of moderating posts and private messages, many which became volatile and personal.

“We kept having to put more rules in; it’s not a rant and rave page, it’s a hiking page and we want to keep it positive,” McCallum said. “People kept saying social media is ruining the outdoors and we respect that, but who are we to judge who joins hiking site?”

ALSO READ: Hiking reservations pitched for B.C. parks in danger of being ‘loved to death’

While McCallum dealt with the situation for years, a recent group called Fake A Hike Vancouver Island was the last straw after she said they tagged her and her partner in hurtful memes, public posts, and cruel private messages.

Fake A Hike described itself as a satirical version of the hiking page which aimed to really emphasize the importance of Leave No Trace.

“Take A Hike has always been about sharing locations with everyone, we were starting to see a problem in that in places like Keyhole Springs getting shut down,” said Liam Higgins, an admin member of Fake a Hike.

Higgins was a member of TAHVI, and said when he tried to voice his concerns he received backlash.

“I tried to raise issues within the group and I got death threats, mocked by my appearance, and insults on my family.”

Higgins said he only meant posts as jokes, and never sent mean messages to McCallum himself, though he is aware other members did. Much like TAHVI, he said Fake a Hike grew and lost control.

“It turned into a bloody gong show,” he said. “We’re sorry for anyone whose feelings were hurt, it was never our intention… I don’t condone cyberbullying.”

VIDEO: Campers leave big mess at rural Vancouver Island campsite

For Higgins, the project was always about passing the torch to future generations.

“I was just concerned about stewardship,” he said. “It’s about not geotagging posts or photos, and leaving Instagram location tags alone.”

McCallum didn’t disagree with Higgins’ stance.

“There is validity to that, but my point was we can take TAHVI down and then 10 more groups will pop up because social media is going nowhere,” McCallum said. “Now you have no idea if they’re going to promote Leave No Trace or safety”

Eventually the two groups came to a truce: McCallum would shut down her group if Fake A Hike would, too. Both groups have since been closed to new members and archived. Several other hiking groups have since emerged.

As for McCallum, she’ll hold off on more groups, at least until her child is a bit older.

“I’ve made so many friends from this group, I have no shortage of hiking buddies,” McCallum said.

nicole.crescenz@vicnews.com


Send a Tweet: @NicoleCrescenzi

Like us on Facebook  

Just Posted

Organizer of Sidney election forum defend environmental focus

Organizers say the forum won’t be soap box for local MP and federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May

Demand for youth, child counselling spikes in Victoria

Oak Bay gala a crucial support for youth counselling

Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation looks to grow funding for memory garden

Foundation will start new campaign next month as it wraps up recruitment campaign

VIDEO: A moment to remember during the World Lacrosse Men’s Indoor Championship in B.C.

Diego Hernandez Valenzuela’s team lost, but he felt like a winner Saturday

Three second-half goals lead Cavalry over Victoria’s Pacific FC

Cavalry FC downed Pacific FC 4-1 on Sunday in Canadian Premiere League action

Island music trivia tournament a hit on World Alzheimer’s Day

More than $13,000 raised by people naming that tune

PHOTOS: Steller sea lion with plastic around neck rescued on Vancouver Island

Rescue staff determined the plastic band cut the protected animal’s neck approximately two inches

B.C. VIEWS: School officials join fact-free ‘climate strike’

Students, public get distorted picture of greenhouse gases

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Iconic 90s TV show ‘Friends’ celebrates 25th anniversary

The iconic, decade-long television show aired its first episode 25 years ago today

Most Read