Whitehorse city staff presented recommendations to council May 29 which would open up trails in Porter Creek, Takhini and Whistle Bend designated to motorized vehicles.
Council heard at the standing committee meeting that the trail is already used unofficially by motorized vehicles.
Some residents of these neighbourhoods are concerned about the motorized use designation and how it will affect pedestrians who use the trails.
Julie Jay, who lives in Whistle Bend, said people of all ages and mobility use the trail daily, and that the use of motorized vehicles on the trail would increase if it were fully designated. She raised particular concerns for senior citizens living in the area and pointed out that there is a long-term care facility along the trail where elderly people frequently walk.
Jay said that if the designation goes through, it will be hard to undo if it is found to be inappropriate for the area later, when more people move into the area.
“The damage to the quality of life to the majority of trail users in Whistle Bend will be irreversible,” she said.
The recommendation is based on a review of the 2007 trail plan conducted by a neighbourhood trail task force formed in February 2016, city staff said. The task force was made up of members of the Porter Creek Community Association, Whistle Bend Neighbourhood Association and others. The task force recommended the change in designation after conducting a set of surveys in June, one at a public service meeting with 15 respondents, and one online survey with 67 respondents.
Coun. Roslyn Woodcock, however, said there was some uncertainty as to whether the trail was actually already designated for motorized use. She said she believed that it was.
There was some quibbling amongst council and city staff about this, with city staff and some councillors arguing the trails had been designated for motorized use at earlier public meetings, when Whistle Bend was first being built.
Coun. Dan Boyd said he didn’t think that was possible, as no one could recall council voting on it.
City staff were unable to present a record of the designation vote at the time of the meeting.
“I’m not really sold on the idea that this is designated,” said Boyd. “I’d like to see the record of this.”
“I have a hard time seeing the logic of having that paved trail motorized … and I’m having a hard time following the logic of how this was designated.”
City staff are putting together a timeline for the designation in an attempt to clarify the uncertainty around the designation.
There were also concerns about low numbers of participants in the use surveys, which staff said showed “a strong request by residents” to allow motorized vehicles.
“I’m just looking at the numbers,” said Coun. Samson Hartland. “I feel like we’re a little short. Only 67 people took the survey…. Is there a better way to collect the data?”
Staff said there were initially supposed to be two trails — one motorized and one non-motorized — but the territorial funding was cut for the project and the second trail was scrapped.
“I don’t remember that,” said Coun. Rob Fendrick. “I could be wrong … but two trails would solve the problem.”
Staff said it would also be possible to change the designation later, when Whistle Bend is fully built and settled.
“I don’t know if it’s wise to keep refreshing every time a house gets built,” said Mayor Dan Curtis. “I think we need to look at the long term.”
Council will vote on the issue June 5.
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