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

Local LGBTQ+ advocate welcomes Sidney’s decision to recognize Pride Week

Sidney announced its decision in the Town’s updated strategic plan

Hundreds of students gather at Government House to decorate Christmas Trees

The annual tradition let Grade 2 and 3 students help celebrate for the holidays

Mental health call temporarily shuts down Trans Canada Highway in View Royal

West Shore RCMP cite 14 percent increase in calls concerning mental health in 2019

Tenants above Wellburns uncertain after ‘nightmare’ sewage flood ousts them indefinitely

Tenants evacuated after sewage flooded basement of century-old building

Judge dismisses second appeal of Victoria man who murdered unarmed man in 2010 botched robbery

Andrew Jonathon Belcourt has had two trials after his first appeal was granted

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Camosun for annual checkup

The RBCM, Camosun College and Carriageworks Restorations teamed up to care for the car

POLL: Will you be donating to charities over the holiday season?

Many here in Victoria joined others around the world to take part… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 3

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Oscar Hickes: Longest running hockey tournament on Vancouver Island cancelled

Patrick Murray, one of the organizers for the tournament, broke the sad news on social media.

Most Read