The appropriate use of trails in Haro Woods remains one of the central questions as Saanich gets ready to finalize a plan for the popular recreation area.

Public divided over trail use in Saanich’s Haro Woods

Online survey conducted for area which is a popular destination for walkers, joggers and cyclists

It is perhaps the most important question animating users of Haro Woods near the University of Victoria: should Saanich create a ‘biking area’ inside the popular urban forest?

While a non-scientific survey into Saanich’s draft management plan points towards a tentative yes, several questions remain.

Saanich conducted the online survey until Nov. 30 after presenting its draft management plan during a Nov. 9 open house.

The area with its mature Douglas firs has become a popular destination for walkers, joggers and cyclists, drawing users from inside and outside of Saanich. But this popularity has also caused environmental damage, while sparking conflict among users.

The draft management plan describes Haro Woods as a “healthy urban forest” that is a “functioning ecosystem that welcomes respectful use,” but the nature of this “respectful use” remains in dispute, with no issue more contested than the question of off-trail biking.

“At time of writing, the Haro Woods Advisory Group and the general public are divided on the off-trail biking issue,” the draft plan reads.

It promises staff would work with advisory groups and the public to explore possible solutions. They include “creating an area where people may ride, and build tracks and jumps as they please (a ‘biking area’) subject to conditions; and forbidding leaving the trail on bikes (off-trail biking) altogether, to determine the best course of action.”

The biking area would appear in a “previously disturbed area” of Haro Woods.

The report says a “biking area will only proceed if sufficient support is received,” with any specific plan subject to rezoning and a public hearing. If approved, this area would be subject to various conditions designed to cordon off the area and minimize environmental damage.

Respondents appear to favour this solution. Just under 64 per cent – or 274 respondents – said they would use a designated biking area, with just under 27 per cent answering in the negative. The rest were not sure. But the survey also suggests such a biking area would not necessarily address the problem. Almost three out of 10 respondents said such an area would not stop them from riding outside of it, with another 30 per cent not sure. Opponents, meanwhile, say that such an area would encourage only more off-trail biking.

The report also notes Saanich could prohibit damaging biking activity.

Overall, it calls for a combination of pedestrian‐only trails and multi‐use trails that accommodate both recreational cyclists and pedestrians.

Responses to this proposal vary.

“Biking, both for recreation and for transport, is a common and growing part of our culture,” read one submission. “Given the very limited space available for recreational biking in Saanich, I think everything within reason should be done to encourage responsible recreational biking.”

“We need more trails, not less,” read another submission. “Haro Woods is a great place to bring young kids on bikes. Please build more mountain biking trails. We travel, 30 [minutes] on bike, specifically to Haro Woods to ride with our young children. It is a lovely asset to be out in the woods and a great destination to get them biking to it!”

Others, however, would like to minimize, if not eliminate cyclists from the area entirely.

“I’m concerned about what multi-use means,” read one submission. “The biking in the forest has had devastating effects on the forest eco-systems, not to mention extremely dangerous to those on foot. I support walking trails only, to encourage people to stay on trails and minimize our impact.”

Saanich council is set to consider the final management plan in early 2018.

Just Posted

Curtain closes on Sidney’s Star Cinema location

The iconic theatre will move to a temporary location after its last showing Sunday

Camosun student starts bursary program for low-income students

The Jor-Dawn Smith Bursary will go to one Greater Victoria graduate in spring 2020

Victoria property company plans to replace Saanich apartments with townhouses

Abstract Developments plans 26 townhouses for Gorge Road West

Hopeful Sidney pot shop owner challenges town in court after application denied

A court petition has been filed against the Town of Sidney

Search for space continues as North Saanich child care program closes

Beacon Community Service says it is a challenge to find suitable facilities

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Second warning on romaine lettuce from California region as another E. coli case reported

Two cases of E. coli have been reported in relation to the illness in the U.S.

Residents in B.C. city could face 133% tax hike in ‘worst case’ lawsuit outcome: report

An average home could see a tax increase of $2,164 in one year

POLL: Will you be donating to charities over the holiday season?

Many here in Victoria joined others around the world to take part… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Dec. 3

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read