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14 September 2008
Aboriginal relics destroyed by all-terrain vehicles

Dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are grinding away ancient First Nations artifacts in the Nanaimo area (British Columbia, Canada). Geraldine Manson, with the Snuneymuxw First Nation, said several petroglyphs located near Harewood Mines Road have been pounded by both vehicles and hikers over the years. She hopes a barrier will be put in place to protect the relics before they are destroyed.
     Julie Cowie, president of the Nanaimo branch of the Archaeology Society of B.C., said not only does vehicle use erode the surface of the petroglyphs, it removes vegetation on top of the stone exposing it to the elements. Vibrations from the vehicles also damage the artifacts. But Cowie thinks many people are unaware that there are even petroglyphs in the area or how they can be damaged. Although the local archaeology society has been talking to local groups about conservation, there's also the risk of drawing too much attention and too many people to the relics. Popular spots to view similar pieces of history, such as Petroglyph Provincial Park and Gabriola Island, have also been damaged by vandalism and even people removing vegetation covering the stones to get a better look at them. "It really comes down to the individual, you can educate them as much as you want but it comes down to if they care," she said.
     Cowie thinks it's the responsibility of the province to ensure petroglyphs are protected. The province has erected barriers in the past on several Gulf Islands to prevent vehicle use near petroglyphs, but it's not always effective as people find ways to bypass them. Often, whether or not a barrier is erected depends on whether the land is private and how co-operative landowners are. Chris Sholberg, community and heritage planner for the City of Nanaimo, said it's likely that at least part of the land where the Harewood Mines Road petroglyphs are located are on privately owned land.

Sources: Nanaimo Daily News, Canada.com (9 September 2008)

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