Let public review trail applications sooner

Inclusiveness is one of the four guiding principles of the 2007 trail plan. This principle commits the city “to including the public in determining guidelines for trail system development, use, preservation and maintenance.”

How well are Whitehorse residents included in trail building decisions?

Inclusiveness is one of the four guiding principles of the 2007 trail plan. This principle commits the city “to including the public in determining guidelines for trail system development, use, preservation and maintenance.”

Active Trails Whitehorse Association believes that the current trail development application procedure fails to ensure public involvement.

The current procedure requires any individual or organization wishing to construct a trail within the City of Whitehorse to submit a trail development application form to the chairperson of the Whitehorse trail and greenways committee three weeks prior to its regularly scheduled meeting. The completed form is distributed to members of the WTGC for their review and the proposal is usually discussed at its next meeting.

The committee could recommend that city administration approve or deny the application, or approve the application with conditions. Any denied application could be revisited in the future.

In August 2016, in an ATWA meeting with Parks and Community Development representatives, the latter “agreed that it was a good recommendation to attach trail applications to WTGC meeting agendas for public viewing in the future.”

This would have at least given the public an opportunity to view the application, although it would have provided little time for citizens to provide comments, as agendas are released only a few days before committee meetings. However, this recommendation was not adopted when the next trail development application was placed on a subsequent WTGC agenda.

At present, neither the public nor the majority of the members of associations represented on the WTGC are given the opportunity to review and/or comment on these applications prior to them coming before the WTGC.

ATWA suggests that when a trail development application is received by the chairperson that it be immediately put on the city’s website under an appropriate section (trail development applications), so the public and members of the associations are able to review the proposal and submit comments to the chairperson prior to the application’s presentation before the WTGC.

Committee members could make more knowledgeable decisions regarding trail development applications if they had additional input from both the public and the members of committee representatives’ respective associations.

Trail building decisions should not be made in a rush. It may sometimes be appropriate to delay a decision until the next WTGC meeting to allow representatives to better digest the input they have received and perhaps obtain additional information with respect to some of the collected comments.

Citizens should be given a meaningful opportunity to participate in the trail application process. Yes, this will require more time and effort on the part of city staff and the WTGC. But public participation is what the 2007 trail plan calls for, with good reason: all Citizens and the trail network they love will benefit from a more open, inclusive process.

Keith Lay President, Active Trails Whitehorse Association

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