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City strives to find the right trail

With more than 850 kilometers of trails, Whitehorse has one of the largest municipal networks in Canada’s North.

With more than 850 kilometers of trails, Whitehorse has one of the largest municipal networks in Canada’s North.

We just can’t agree on what to do with it.

“It all depends on who you talk to,” said Parks and Recreation development co-ordinator Douglas Hnatiuk.

“In some communities there was quite an adamant desire to have non-motorized trails throughout their subdivision.

“And in others there was overwhelming support for multi-use trails.”

An initial trail plan was created in 1997 that focused on developing key routes, setting standards and mapping the city’s trails.

Inukshuk Planning and Development was awarded the contract to do an update on that plan, and public consultation began in 2004.

The 2007 Trail Plan was presented to council on Monday.

The extensive trail system has grown and evolved organically over the years without much in the way of proper planning.

This has resulted in some trails appearing in environmentally sensitive areas.

“Over time, the trails developed without a lot of thought given to erosion and things of that nature,” said Hnatiuk.

“We may look at decommissioning these trails and building new, better-planned trails in their place.”

The trail plan would also like to encourage more public self-management of the trails.

This includes enforcing the rules of trail etiquette — as long as it is in a non-adversarial manner.

“We talked with the city’s bylaw services and they are not in a position to patrol the trails,” said Hnatiuk.

“There’s no way we can manage over 800 kilometers of trail.”

“I don’t know if you’ve ever been running on one of these trails and met a four-wheeler,” said councillor Doug Graham.

“Conflict resolution under those circumstances is extremely difficult, because they never stop.

“They don’t even slow down in most cases.”

Graham would like to see a strong statement made about the usage of motorized vehicles on the city’s trails.

In the end, the only way to please both motorized and non-motorized trail users may be imposing different rules for different neighbourhoods.

The plan calls for more neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood consultation.

The city will work on a consensus model to come to a conclusion on how to deal with trail usage and maintenance in each individual neighbourhood.

“We just need to get the word out there, and get everyone involved in the process,” said Hnatiuk.

The system of trails is part of Whitehorse’s identity, according to the city’s new trail plan.

The trail system and easy access to nature are an integral part of what makes Whitehorse a special place to live, said the report.

Council will vote on the plan at Monday’s meeting.