Walking improvements needed Paddy's Pond walkability needs

whitehorsewalks.com
walker

January 8, 2013.

Paddy's Pond is our local pond. It's been a great place for walking with a real variety of routes and had mostly no motorized recreational vehicle using the area. But around the time of the new Hamilton Blvd. extension and its culvert, things started to change. The culvert acts as a destination, attracting both walkers and motorized vehicles. Also, the new roadbed construction changed water flows from springs in the area.

For Paddy's Pond, while water levels have varied in the past, recently the water has been consistantly higher as shown by the size of the trees that are being drowned. With higher water levels and careless trail use by motorized recreational vehicles, already fragile trails have been made difficult for walking in some places and unpassable in others.

Above-the-airport neighbourhood trail task force

This task force was to concentrate on designating a set of trails for the main city trail network.The proposed map for Paddy's Pond uses: yellow for non-motorized trails; green for neighbourhood trails and red for motorized trails. I've added the orange or public right-of-way/greenbelt trails because they are important routes in the neighbourhoods.

The task force was not to choose trails with sustainability issues. The task force report did say that Klondike Snowmobile Club would like to route snowmobiles through the area on an official winter motorized trail. Unfortunately, recent snowmobile maps don't acknowledge that water flows through parts of the area. As well, the trails they make are wrecking interesting parts of the wetlands, such as one area I call orchid alley. Nor are they even required to use the official trail!

We often are concerned about damage to the land, to trails, or interference with wildlife. What seems to be neglected is interference with people. Many people when faced with taking a trail towards a loud race-track-like noise of snowmobiles, generally turn and go someplace else. This is having motorized vehicles displace people.

A natural setting

Paddy's Pond, a neighbourhood resource is a botany booklet created with Elijah Smith Grade 3 students and KDFN's Dianne Smith. This is the type of use of Paddy's Pond that makes sense, unlike the idea of making the pond an official snowmobile playground.

Let's look at an alternate, more natural, scenario for Paddy's Pond. Here's what one Hillcrest resident proposed

"One thing I had thought of is to build a mini wharf/dock type structure out into Paddy's Pond at the bottom of the toboggan hill. It could jut out past the willows and be edged with benches and railings as well as interpretive signage like those at McIntyre Creek.
This would block snowmobile traffic through that part of the pond in winter and make it so that people could sit and watch the very rich bird life on the pond in the warmer months. This could actually be part of a much longer interpretive walking trail through the whole wetland.
"

Another resident proposed cleaning up the tobaggan hill, making it safe for people on the hill, trying to restore it to as it was in older days. It could become a family place, even more than it already is.

Here's some places that need work, none of which was addressed by the trail task force.

  • (F) Fix the trail entering from Hillcrest Drive opposite Chalet Crescent. Tree roots and slipperyness make this not pleasant to walk.
  • (G) The trail around Paddy's Pond need re-routing as the water levels change.
  • (A,B,C) These mark wrecked pieces where a trail crosses a wet area. These crossings used to allow variety to people's neighbourhood walks.
  • (A,D) Vehicles are making yet more trails to bypass spots where they can't use the wetland trail they've already destroyed. Their method: move over 15 feet and make a new trail!
  • (A) This is actually an environmentally sensitive area.
  • (J) Block motor vehicle access.
  • (H) Toboggan Hill down from Granger needs help; it's not always safe, especially with snowmobiles on the trails.

Walking trails

Here's a few resources for learning simple trail maintenance. Repairs such as small bridges could be made much less expensively if these were just foot trails; as part of their stewardship, motor vehicle groups would need to lobby their members to respect the area and stay away.

Lets look at a few neighbourhood loop trails that, with the trail work shown above, could become a walking network again. Think of walking about 4 km per hour for a moderate pace; think about taking a daily walk and the trail variety you'd like to use as you walk from your home.

Hillcrest loops: 2.5, 2.7, 5.1 kms
Granger loops: 2.0, 2.1, 3.7 kms

Above-the-airport trails and greenspaces committee

When the Task Force started, the city told our above-the-airport trails and greenspaces committee that they wouldn't meet with us anymore as a neighbourhood trail task force was the new way of things.

But near the end of the trails task force I recieved this from Hillcrest reps on the task force:

"Biggest thing that came up Peter is that we can't do anything without city support to our trails. No log bridges, no docks, nothing. We need trails to be designated so we can then work with the city to upgrade them. Liability was a big topic and without their support we can't do anything."

So now the task force is mostly done and has addressed none of these issues. What to do? Do we wait until Parks and trails department starts looking at stewardship concepts. Will we again be given a committee with 3 motor vehicle groups, trail runners, mountain bikers? Are these groups really interested in our local walkability and the health of our local recreation pond?