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

Free firework safety courses coming to the West Shore right before Halloween

No permit? You could be fined anywhere between $100 and $10,000

Persons Day to be marked with literary readings in Sidney

Peninsula authors to read from their new books relating to women and courageous journeys, Oct. 18

Vendors open doors to new futures at Black Press Extreme Education & Career Fair

More tham two dozen employers, educators signed on for Victoria event

Fairfield-Gonzales residents aim to establish senior care phone line

The Fairfield-Gonzales Village would allow seniors living alone to have a direct line to resources

Antimatter 2019: The best in experimental media art comes to Victoria

22nd annual festival of film, performance art and more biggest ever – 120 artists, 30 countries

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Dog killed in alleged hit and run, Goodlife Marathon takes over city and more

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Okanagan woman, 91, votes at advance polls despite broken hip, shoulder and wrist

Angela Maynard has voted in almost every election during her lifetime

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

The one with the ‘Friends’ photoshoot: Kelowna group recreates TV show intro

A friend’s departure prompted them to create something that really says, “I’ll be there for you”

Canadian Snowbirds plane crashes before air show in Atlanta

Pilot lands safely after ejecting from jet

Share crash data, private insurers tell David Eby, ICBC

B.C. monopoly makes drivers retrieve their own records

Most Read