A local group has launched a petition to protect Haro Woods.
“We want to work with [The District of] Saanich,” said Katrina Madsen of Friends of Haro Woods. “We are just really concerned about the damage.”
The group is currently collecting names on a petition designed to protect the popular recreation area. As of this writing, the petition had collected some 50 names, but it is early yet, said Madsen.
Located off Arbutus Road in Saanich’s Cadboro Bay neighbourhood, Haro Woods is a 5.6-hectare park which has become a popular destination for walkers, joggers and cyclists, drawing users from inside and outside of Saanich.
Its future remains uncertain after Saanich has announced that it will continue to gather public input on its proposed draft management for the park. Its writing started in September 2016 and will continue for months because of ongoing disagreements over whether Saanich should allow cycling in the park.
“Despite all of these public engagement activities undertaken, we’ve identified a lack of consensus in the community on the issue of biking in the park,” said Gary Darrah, Saanich’s manager of park planning and development, earlier this month. “The draft management plan was set to be presented to [council] on May 28, but due to the lack of shared understanding among stakeholders around recreation uses in the park, we decided to continue to gather public input and extend our survey.”
Saanich has floated the idea of a pilot project that would see the municipality reserve one region of the park for cyclists. Staff, however, insist that they not yet made a decision, in rejecting claim that Saanich has somehow rigged the process in favour of cyclists.
Madsen said allowing cycling in one part of the park could open the door for cycling throughout it. Such a move could turn the park into a mono-use area not longer consistent with its history of multiple uses. “There are so many other people [other than cyclists], who use it,” she said.
Worse, allowing cycling in the park could further damage the natural environment of the area. “It’s a very small forest, and we have seen so much destruction [already],” said Madsen. This is not just about little kids riding the park with their BMX bikes.
Madsen said the park with its coastal Douglas firs serves as a breeding habitat for various bird species and as a wildlife corridor for large animals including deer and cougar.
Madsen acknowledged that Saanich has yet to present its options for the park, but worries that cyclists will eventually have the run of the place.
“We are sending the wrong message to our youth,” she said. “If you damage the forest, we will hand it over to you.”