Saanich council approved the draft management plan for Haro Woods, but not before hearing charges of ignoring the public will in confirming a ban on “active” biking.
Speaking before council, Cadboro Bay resident James Anderson said Saanich’s staff report confirming the ban on “active biking” perpetuates misinformation.
He pointed specifically to portions of a (non-scientific) survey that appear to support off-trail biking — the type of biking that the confirmed ban on active biking would prohibit. Almost 64 per cent of respondents said they would come to Haro Woods if Saanich were to create a well-designed biking area where all biking activity, including jumps, would be allowed.
Anderson questioned why Saanich is ignoring these voices as he accused supporters of the plan — “a self-appointed, small minority” – of deceiving the public.
“Tonight, I stand here bitterly disappointed at two things: the narrow selfish nature of several of my [neighbours] and failures of the democratic process where the public process clearly got derailed and captured by the small group of zealots who know how to manipulate the media and public process and pressure politicians,” he said. “I am compelled to suggest there will be significant difference between what the draft plan proposes for park use in contrast to patterns of current use, much of which I predict will persist.”
But Anderson remained a minority voice, as the majority of speakers, including Eric Dahli, president of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, supported the ban. Anderson implied himself that opponents of the draft plan can only blame themselves by not showing up to Monday’s meeting.
Council unanimously endorsed the draft management plan after hearing from Saanich’s senior manager of park, Eva Riccius, who said off-trail biking does not match the area zoning, harms the environment and causes conflict among users.
Despite efforts and discussions with the biking community, activities connected with trail biking such as jump building have continued, she said.
“So while there was some interest in the community to warrant exploring the issue and possibly allowing it, in the end, there wasn’t sufficient support for us as staff to recommend to you to allow it to occur in the park,” she said.
Active biking, she added, would be inconsistent with the vision of the plan.
Saanich will instead remove jumps, restore damaged areas, and monitor the area, while allowing “passive” biking, she said.
Overall, the draft management will include resources to improve signage, accessibility, and monitor the area, she said.
The drafting of the plan has identified a “strong interest” for some sort of a cycling facility in Saanich and the municipality is working towards that goal, said Riccius.
“In 2019, we will be constructing a new bike skills park at McMinn Park [along the Lochside Trail],” she said. “We are also in discussion with owners of two properties that would be suitable for a youth park of some sort, and those discussions are looking quite positive,” she said.