Open letter to Whitehorse’s mayor and council:
There is an idea revving up to motorize the Rotary Centennial Bridge.
Two illegal trails (and a third in the works) run through the greenbelt on the west side of the Millennium Trail and give off road vehicles (ORVs) illegal access to both Robert Service Way and the Riverdale area via the pedestrian bridge. City bylaws prohibit ORVs from using the Millennium Trail and its pedestrian footbridge both in summer and in winter.
At a Jan. 7 council meeting, administration listed four options presented to council in a December briefing note: status quo, new gates, camera, or “designate Centennial Bridge as [a] MMU (motorized multi-use) route (with triggered flashing lights to aid non-motorized traffic).” The latter option would “require [that] additional trail [be built] adjacent to YEC property on [the] west side to connect to MMU trails.” In other words, make the illegal trails legal.
Active Trails Whitehorse Association believes that rewarding vandalism and the illegal use of the bridge by legalizing these trails and opening the pedestrian bridge to ORVs is the worst possible kind of message to send to the community.
Beyond the impacts to the associated greenbelts, there are quality of life and safety issues associated with motorizing the bridge.
The bridge has close to 315,000 user visits each year. It is a city icon, and is much used by tourists in the summer and winter. The Millennium Trail is marketed as a pedestrian non-motorized trail, and it helps to promote our city’s image as an active recreation mecca.
The bridge was built by the city as part of its Urban Transportation Showcase Project. “Building a new pedestrian and cycling bridge across the Yukon River as an attractive and additional access to downtown for pedestrians and cyclists of the city’s Riverdale community [was seen as a way to] reduce greenhouse gases in the transportation sector,” [and to aid in the elimination of] barriers to active transportation,” states the city report Whitehorse Moves 2004-7.
A partnership consisting of Transport Canada’s Urban Transportation Showcase Program, Yukon Energy Corporation and the Rotary Clubs of Whitehorse, along with other sponsors, funded the construction of the bridge. Letters of support from the major funding bodies all mention that the pedestrian bridge would both help to promote active forms of recreation and reduce greenhouse gases.
The bridge is a place where people stop to view the scenery, watch birds, and listen to the river. In summer one of the treats is to watch kayakers play in the waters directly beneath the bridge. How will non-motorized users, including tourists, react to having dirt bikes, ATVs, (and in the winter, snowmobiles) pass by, especially in such a confined area?
Our association respectfully asks our mayor and city council to ensure that the Rotary Centennial Bridge remains non-motorized both in summer and in winter. We also ask that the illegal trails west of the Millennium Trail be effectively blocked as soon as weather permits in the spring.
In addition, we ask that the option of installing a wheelchair accessible gate on the west side of the Millennium Trail (but not on the bridge itself) should be explored further.