Cyclists, runners stand up for ATVs

Whether your preferred fuel is gasoline or Gatorade, it seems Whitehorse trail users want to work together, not against each other.

Whether your preferred fuel is gasoline or Gatorade, it seems Whitehorse trail users want to work together, not against each other.

The city’s new East Yukon River trail plan was approved by city council on Monday night, even as debate over its effectiveness continues.

The plan will see some major artery trails on the east side of the Yukon River and behind Riverdale designated as allowing ATVs and dirt bikes in the summer, and snowmobiles in the winter.

Any trail not specifically designated for motorized use is assumed to be non-motorized.

That’s not good enough, said a number of stakeholders who spoke at Monday’s council meeting, though the groups pushing for more motorized trails may seem surprising.

Sierra van der Meer, president of the Contagious Mountain Bike Club, said throughout the trail planning process the city has assumed motorized and non-motorized users could never get along.

“The concern is that this plan is inadequate in meeting the needs of the motorized community,” van der Meer said.

She said the bike club is standing up for its motorized comrades because everyone can help build a better trail system.

“The bike club cares because we want a strong, sustainable trail network and we believe that sharing is key to achieving this. I believe by telling two groups they cannot be expected to get along and that motorized and non-motorized uses should be enemies, we encourage conflict,” van der Meer said.

Van der Meer said creating a motorized link via the Cantlie Lake Connector, as proposed in the new plan, would go a long way to helping motorized users access the full suite of available trails without having to ride on roads or transport their machines with trailers.

Nancy Thomson, president of the Trail and Ultra Running Association, agreed.

She said that while many of the trails above Riverdale are too narrow for ATVs or snowmobiles, her club has never had an issue sharing larger trails with those users.

Active Trails Whitehorse’s Keith Lay also spoke at the meeting, though he wasn’t so in favour of sharing.

One of his major concerns was that currently there are competing rules governing snowmobiles in the city.

“We have a 2007 trail plan that says ATVs and snowmobiles cannot go on non-motorized trails, and one says they can. In this city, no means yes, at least when it comes to snowmobiles,” he said.

He’s also worried that motorized users, especially younger riders, won’t obey the new rules anyway and the city doesn’t have enough bylaw manpower to enforce them.

Chris Locke, the president of the Yukon Cross Country Motorcycle Association, also worries the new rules will have a negative impact. “Now they’ve said basically ‘no kids allowed’ because of licensing. And you look at the access around Riverdale, it’s breeding contempt for motorized trails,” he said in an interview after the meeting.

Locke said he wasn’t surprised that the runners and mountain bikers are asking for a more collaborative approach, because everyone wants the same thing.

Alaska could offer an example to follow, he said, where motorists and non-motorists share the same state parks. There are shared arteries that everyone can use, as well as designated trails for motorized and non-motorized, but they are all in the same area and all equally accessible.

“They were of the same mindset. I was up in Anchorage, and they have a giant sports complex built out of their state park where their largest cross-country ski area is. They have park-and-rides right there. Clearly they’ve got it all sorted,” he said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

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