Quiet spaces

One thing about the Yukon that more of us should take advantage of is "the peace and quiet."

Aug. 27, 2014. This is your brain on silence. Contrary to popular belief, peace and quiet is all about the noise in your head.

November 21, 2012. Whitehorse proudly claims as a city motto — Whitehorse, the Wilderness City. I think most of us are realists. We don't believe we're going to walk out our doors and take the dogs for an hour or so walk and never see another person. Nor do we think we're going to walk on land never before walked on, nor will we be out of range of road or airport noise. But I do think we'd all like be able to find a few places where we can get a sense of peace, a place where we can savor tranquility.

It's the great, big, broad land 'way up yonder,
It's the forests where silence has lease;
It's the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It's the stillness that fills me with peace.

-- Robert W. Service, The Spell of the Yukon

Many people appreciate peace and quiet, small foot trails, clean air — they run, they ski, they snowshoe, but mostly they're walkers. We need more walkable greenspaces and trails. The city could make the greenbelts more friendly, encourage people to become more familiar with our woods, encourage longer walks, mark trails, create friendly usable current mapping, interpret trails, make a wide variety of loop trails linking destinations; these are all obvious strategies.

4.2 Foster Reflection and Escape from Urban Form: since time immemorial, people have sought solace and solitude – or fellowship – in the natural world to meditate or to heal; the City's role is to provide safe, accessible opportunities for residents to experience the restorative effects of nature.
-- 2007 Parks and Recreation Master Plan

In an interview in a recent Air North inflight magazine, Bev Gray said that the one thing about the Yukon that more of us should take advantage of is "the peace and quiet."

Is there a peaceful space in each part of the city?

Obviously times change. Every area in the city does not have to be open to off-road vehicles. The opportunity to have areas declared off-limits to vehicles is a topic the city has not yet successfully addressed. The city missed taking a stand in the snowmobile and ATV by-law update processes:

ATV By-law report, 2012

Recommendation No. 10: Trails- Designated Non-Motorized Areas: That the City designate restricted use areas where no motorized activity would be permitted. The areas should be of sufficient size to ensure a quiet soundscape and maintenance of the natural character of the area.

Administration supports this recommendation. Talks between Parks and Recreation, the Sustainability Manager and Bylaw Services have already begun concerning a review of the Protected Areas Bylaw and Parks and Recreation Bylaw to address these concerns and the need for “City designated restricted use areas.”

This was a unanimous recommendation of ATV Force members. (In the subsequent public survey, 21% disagreed or strongly disagreed, 65% agreed or strongly agreed)

How will this still very outstanding issue be dealt with? Will it be in the 2014 Green Spaces Plan called for by the City's Whitehorse Strategic Sustainability Plan, the next Trail Plan, the Management Plan for varying city Parks, the next OCP, the Protected Areas By-law update?

Exclusionists or fairness?

The local golf courses don't allow people to do whatever they want in their areas. Klondike Snowmobile Club bars wheeled vehicles from some of their trails. The Biathlon Ski Trails are off limits to casual use, and they have a gun range that is indeterminate as to safety behind it. The Whitehorse Cross Country Club has private ski trails. Magnusson and Chadburn Lake ski trails are off limits to snowmobiles and ATVs. Downtown excludes motorized recreation vehicles, snowmobiles included. So having some areas for non-motorized is a tradition. Calling people who want peace, quiet, clean air, unwrecked trails are just normal citizens, not 'exclusionists.'

Quiet places

Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Trails

Both the ATV and snowmobile by-laws declare these area off-limits to motorized vehicles. Some number of years ago, members of the ski club worked very hard with the snowmobile people and were able to get them to restrict use of the area to a specific trail: the KSA Trail. This trail is not a motorized trail in the summer under the ATV By-law. The Logan Arkell Wetlands below are used by snowmobiles.

Paddy's Pond/Ice Lake Park

This park is used by the above-the-airport subdivisions: Hillcrest, Granger, Copper Ridge, Lobird, McIntyre, Logan, Arkell and Ingram.

This is a greenspace shared by many residents, both as a recreation place and as part of a transit corridor passing the south end of the Airport Perimeter Trail to access the Yukon River at the Millennium Bridge.

Not only the smallest city park, over half of it is environmentally sensitive. It's the only city park completely inside the UCB and with no motorized trails. It could become the city's first non-motorized Park.

Middle McIntyre Creek

Places like this should be a treasure to a "Wilderness City." The City should have with an open mind and a sense of vision. A less car-centric solution to Whistle Bend needs to be a goal.

In actuality, the McIntyre Creek area should be looked at as the only place in the common district shared by Porter Creek, Whistle Bend, Takhini, Yukon College and Takhini and Northland mobile home parks, among others, where there is enough "wilderness" that people can spend a few hours walking about in tranquility, having walked from their homes. Instead of further destruction by a road to the Alaska Hwy, the area should be restored, becoming an inner city wilderness resource.

It's within the Urban Containment Boundary, an area that can only get more heavily used. Any out-and-away trails should be carefully thought out.