The Millennium Trail is one of the few trails in Whitehorse truly designated as non-motorized. Approximately 315,000 people annually use this unique trail, which is located alongside the Yukon River. While enjoying a quiet walk, jog, or bike ride along the Millennium Trail, people often see nesting bald eagles, migrating swans, beavers and harlequin ducks.
But contrary to the city’s bylaws, the Millennium Trail and footbridge are being used year-round by rogue offroad vehicles (ORVs) of all types. Illegal motorized access points involve the footbridge and adjacent trail sections on both sides of the river, and through the greenbelt next to the Robert Service Campground.
The presence of ORVs on the Millennium Trail, and in particular on the footbridge, present a significant safety issue to trail users. One would expect the city would to take every possible step to curtail such use. But despite residents reporting these infractions numerous times to the city, no adequate measures have been taken.
The existing gates located near the footbridge have not deterred illegal ORV use. A test gate installed on the footbridge by the city in August 2013 was somewhat effective, but it was vandalized approximately two weeks after installation, and then removed by city staff.
The city’s failure to rectify the issues of environmental degradation and safety will send the wrong message to city residents who enjoy such non-motorized trails.
Active Trails Whitehorse Association has written mayor and council regarding the illegal use of snowmobiles and ATVs on the trail and pedestrian bridge, and suggested options for blocking off the two existing ORV access points near the campground, and the installation of an adequate gate on the west side of the trail in an effective location. (For details, visit our website at www.activetwa.org.)
Concerns have been expressed that barriers will cause some inconvenience to trail users. However, if a minor inconvenience means that the safety of Millennium Trail users is increased, the enjoyment of the trail by users is enhanced, and the protection of our greenbelts is improved, then the trade-off is well worth it.
We urge the city to immediately and effectively deal with this problem.
Keith Lay, Dorothy Lebel
Active Trails Whitehorse Association