Response to proposed changes to 2007 Trail Plan as per package of changes


Mayor and Council,

I understand the drive to get on with doing trail work but the latest draft trail plan material/package has some unaddressed issues and since many of us have invested much work, both on the 2007 version and on the recent changes, it seems that making this as good as possible is important.

Please accept that this is based on a quick read of the Trail Plan Package. Two days to read and give feedback is short. I apologize for any misunderstandings I may have. I'm also in England visiting family so my focus is also on important grandchild-like items!

- Walkability:

Canada Walks Master Class, Case Study: City of Whitehorse, 2009. This document should be refered to in the enabling documents of the Trails and Greenways Committee and the Whitehorse Trail Technical Committee.

Background: In preparation for the Master Class, cities were asked to clarify why they became involved and what their hopes and expectations were.

The responses from Whitehorse were as follows:

  • Why do you want to be involved?
    - We have invested significantly in active transportation infrastructure, now we want to see a shift from recreational walking to walking for Active Transportation (AT)
    - We are looking for an outside critique on what we have accomplished, what our strengths are and what we need to improve on if we want to attain a vision of a more walkable, sustainable community
  • How can the Master Class help you?
    - Learn how to better utilize our existing paths and trails
    - Engage community groups in promoting AT
    - Integrate walking policy into key documents and plans
  • What do you want to achieve for your community short term/long term?
    - Explore ways to connect major facilities with walkable areas
    - Ingrate active transportation into complete neighbourhood design

Trail Plan

The Trail Plan Committee 2012 Chart refers a number of times to a "few select residents" as if these people were being problematic to the Parks and Recreation Department. I certainly hope that by my speaking with the voice of a Hillcrest walker I am not considered a disruptive person. Is Parks and Recreation saying they don't want individuals to be part of the city processes? Was there a problem with my participation on the ATV Task Force?

This Case Study of Whitehorse by Canada Walks, and its goal of helping make Whitehorse a more walkable community, meshes with my stated objectives over the past years of creating a more walkable trail network for our neighbourhoods above the airport: Hillcrest, Granger, Copper Ridge, Logan, Arkell, Ingraham, McIntyre, Lobird, Valleyview, about 6600 people (Yukon Bureau of Statistics, June 2011). At about 25% of the city's population, we are hardly an insignificant part of the city, and with the city's desire to improve community health by creating a culture of walking, we are a lot of walkers to encourage. It really starts with having a good trail network.

----- Balanced representation and motorized vehicle organizations:

The OCP, the Trail Plan, and the Parks and Recreation Master Plan are very clear that there must be balanced representation. Yet the proposed 'interdiscplinary' Trails and Greenways Committee is required to have a balanced representation just between motorized and non-motoried representation. At a recent city council meeting, it was made very clear that there was no bias towards motor vehicle use. Yet instead of being one user group among many, the city has elevated these users to being 50% of a citizen committee! The recent Riverdale Task Force is apparently to have 3 motorized groups! Yet their own statistics show ~70% drive more than 1 kind of off-road vehicle. They are obviously way over represented. Why?

An additional bias is the city considers the Klondike Snowmobile Association its multi-use trail stewards and meets regularly with them. How can the community progress on trails suitable for walkers, if the trail stewards are focused on motorized trails?

A better balance in representation would be 50-50 user groups and community associations.

Considering that ~80% of city residents live within the Urban Containment Boundary, representing only 13% of the city's land, would seem a more interesting basis to balanced representation. Having this balance for the Snowmobile and ATV Task Forces, we might have ended up with more respect for residential area trails in the two new By-laws.

How often have we suddenly seen a bike fly by us on a trail or peered anxiously over a hill of a Hidden Lakes/Chadburn Lake bike trail and wondered if a bike would come flying over the crest. With the city's new focus on building bike trails they should be represented.

----- Mult-use: Motorized or non-motorized?

In spite of hearing repeatedly that the language of trails need to be simple, this revised trail Plan package refers to multi-use trails as if they were motorized multi-use. If people are to understand and respect the law, then clearly trails should be considered either motorized or non-motorized. The Trail Plan in this very same package seems very clear that trails are either motorized multi-use or non-motorized multi use. This language of trail naming seems deliberately confusing. Why?

It is unfortunate that snowmobiles are considered non-motorized vehicles for some By-laws. I continue to hear from people wondering why snowmobiles are allowed to ignore no motorized vehicle signs. The city's fall/winter ATV survey clearly showed the conflict in residential areas and people's lack of understanding of why By-law allows motorized snowmobiles to flaunt the law.

(from another Hillcrest resident: Just want to say that I concur on the language/terminology issue and the confusion. It drives me crazy the way the various bylaws and documents are worded in this area. And as you have stated in various comments, how can the education processes work around new bylaws such as the Snowmobile Bylaw and ATV Bylaw when it is not clear what is "non-motorized". Or "non-motorized multiuse". On on the flip side, non-motorized users should be clear on which multi-use trails are motorized "mulit-use" as well ie to be alert and watch out for motorized vehicles.)

Even the city's active transportation people are part of this confusion talking about hard-surface, non-motorized, multi-use trail building in our area, such as the trail leading to Elijah Smith Elementary School. Are they seriously saying these won't be used by snowmobiles, or are they falling into this naming trap also?

----- Trails and Greenway Committee mandate:

The idea that the new Trail Committee will not have input into design of the city-wide trail network seems to defeat the ideas of the Trail Plan. For instance, look at a walker's perspective for the above-the-airport neighbourhoods. Only looking at 'neighbourhood'-level trails means that the very important needs of walking trails throughout the entire above-the-airport area will suffer. The Hamilton Blvd./Granger/Copper Ridge through Mcintyre Barrier is one result of not looking at the big picture. (see page 10 in Looking at Whitehorse walking trails on my whitehorsewalks website)

This limitation on the committee's mandate is especially problematic as the motorized Klondike Snowmobile Club — as the city's trail stewards — is given powers over the entire city-wide trail network.

----- Neighbourhood Task Forces:

The previous draft contained make-up ideas of the neighbourhood-level task forces. That draft was set to allow a neighbourhood a small voice alongside the many special interest groups which could well show up for each and every neighbourhood Task Force. What is the current idea for makeup of these task forces? Why is this not part of this package to allow public comment?

One seat on the Task Force would seem to be appropriate for a member of the trails and greenspaces committee. This way the Task Force can be in the loop for city-wide initiatives, and the Trails and Greenway Committee gets valuable feedback on neighbourhood needs.

The preamble to this package implies progress has been made in the Hillcrest/Granger/Copper Ridge area by 'neighborhood-by-neighborhood task force planning group approach as outlined in the plan.' Yet, for the trail maps, changes in the trail status of the Dyke Road Trail in Paddy's Pond/Ice Lake Park was done with no neighbourhood consultation. This shows the problem with neighbourhood task forces that don't include the neighbourhoods but do include motorized trail stewards.

(From another Hillcrest resident: I would also agree with the item related to the Hillcrest area and the preamble to the package. Yes, we have made some good progress with discussions around potential trail work and trail development in the Above the Airports group and linking trail networks. But during those discussions, it didn't come up or we were never asked about the trail status of the Old Dyke Road. I'm guessing that would be a request by the Snowmobile Association.)

Why does the city think that these task forces will not be required by 2017? Looking at the Timeline chart for instance 'Complete neighbourhood trail plans (approximately 10, dependant on boundaries)', is supposed to be done by this year. Have any been done yet?

Our area has had a Trails and Greenspaces committee for a number of years and the tasks ahead seen endless. I suspect most neighbourhoods and districts have a similar situation.

----- Environmentally significant/sensitive areas:

Defining Ecologically-Based Significant Wildlife Areas for the City of Whitehorse, 2000. This document should also be part of the Committee's resource package.

We have the problem that a lot of environmentally sensitive areas are not marked on city maps, or are marked incorrectly. This also was not done in consultation with neighbourhoods.

The new snowmobile map is a good example of problems. Only some environmentally sensitive areas are marked. This will result in the snowmobile drivers returning with their ATVs and continuing to drive where they did with their snowmobiles and continue to churn up our trails and wetlands. Why and how was this new map developed?

-----Whitehorse Trail Technical Committee

I've written before about the problems of the makeup of this committee. My concerns have not been addressed.

Another organization which seems appropriate to be a member is the Yukon Government Department of Highways and Public Works. In the airport area there a number of problem aspects, for vehicles and for walkers. The fact that this highway passes through a city means that the needs of the city should get priority over the needs of vehicles passing through. Walkability studies in many cities are having to go back and undo decisions made back in the days of when vehicles ruled the road. With today's focus on community health, it should be a given that proper highway crossings for walkers are put where needed (ie, at both ends of the airport.)

What part of the city is in charge of Zoning? As I pointed out in Looking at Whitehorse walking trails on my whitehorsewalks website (this was my submission to the Zoning By-law update), sometimes zoning blocks natural trail processes. Is "Sustainability" the department that will look after these issues?

----- Timeline:

Why is the city waiting until next year to start the Trails and Greenways Committee? Is it cost? The trails part of Parks and Recreation has been woefully underfunded for a long time. The focus on organized recreation and its attendant needs of building and staff infrastructure has left trails as an almost forgotten item. The current system of having Community Associations go begging to other governments for money — without the city dedicating a fair share of its recreation budget — is embarrassing! Walkability requires some infrastructure. It also requires some staff focus.

I truly hate to sound repetitive but city timelines are quite unrealistic. As individuals, some of us make time to respond. I applaud Council for asking to meet in person to expedite matters. But please note that a day's notice is pretty short to consult with others. As a result, we are then considered a "few select residents" and not part of a city voice!

It would certainly help people if material presented at council meetings was immediately available on-line. For instance, the last three regular and standing council meetings are not yet on-line. The staff could have this as a last step in taking minutes is to post them. A few minutes work I'd hope. To get this Trail PAckage I had to specifically ask for it and then someone made a PDF and mailed it to me. This is a waste of staff time I would think.

Peter Long
A Hillcrest walker