Bridge should be shared, say snowmobilers

If every Whitehorse neighbourhood has a way out for its recreational vehicle users, why can't Riverdale? That's the argument put forward by the Klondike Snowmobile Association in the ongoing saga.

If every Whitehorse neighbourhood has a way out for its recreational vehicle users, why can’t Riverdale?

That’s the argument put forward by the Klondike Snowmobile Association in the ongoing saga of whether or not to allow motorized vehicles on the Rotary Centennial Bridge.

“Riverdale is isolated from the vast trail network west of the Yukon River,” wrote Mark Daniels, president of the KSA, in a letter to council last November.

“All other Whitehorse neighbourhoods have direct out-and-away trail connections to the main Trans Canada route and the hinterland beyond. Motorized recreationalists in Riverdale are left with a dilemma: there’s not much trail worth riding east of the river and they can’t get to the trails on the west side without endangering themselves, breaking the law, or investing in a trailer and tow vehicle.”

The bridge, which opened in July 2005, will celebrate its 10th anniversary this summer.

The polarizing issue resurfaced last week during a public meeting held at Christ the King Elementary School.

Of the 30 people who showed up to chat with Mayor Dan Curtis and a few councillors, 23 of them said the footbridge was their top issue.

Motorized vehicles are currently not allowed on the bridge and a group of Riverdale residents has been a vocal proponent of keeping it that way. They argue the bridge was always intended for pedestrian use only.

But Daniels said that’s not the case.

As he explains it, former KSA president Peter Greenlaw was involved in planning the bridge. Before he passed away, he told Daniels he always believed it would be multi-use and wouldn’t have supported its construction if he thought otherwise.

“Peter said that, after the KSA was asked to support the bridge, someone decided that it would be non-motorized and that was when the KSA pulled out of the process,” Daniels wrote in an email.

Motorized recreationalists have been looking for ways to cross the Yukon River for years, Daniels said.

But crossing the river is too dangerous in the winter, and not an option in the summer, he added, and an additional bridge would cost millions to build.

Without bridge access, motorized users in Riverdale need trailers, and large enough vehicles to tow them, to get their snowmobiles and ATVs out of the neighbourhood.

That would be costly and leave a large carbon footprint, he said.

As stewards of the hundreds of kilometres of trails in and around Whitehorse, the KSA has invested millions in their operation and maintenance, he said.

That includes the installation of Bailey bridges on the Copper Haul Road at Wolf Creek and at Sima Creek, and a large culvert at Skipping Rock Creek.

“Surely, non-motorized users can share one bridge,” he wrote.

Daniels is also a member of the trails and greenway committee, which has been tasked by the city with finding recommendations for the future use of the bridge.

The group met last night, behind closed doors, to discuss the seven ideas that were generated during a January meeting.

It will narrow down its recommendations to one or two and present them to council, after which a public input period will be held.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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