This map of Haro Woods show its political boundaries. Saanich council will consider a report Monday that confirms the ban on “active” biking in the area. (District of Saanich photo)

Battle over Saanich’s Haro Woods not yet over, says report

Draft management plan calls on Saanich to spend $142,500 to improve area

A report predicts “active” bicyclists will “shift” away from a popular recreation area, but also raises the prospect of on-going conflicts between various users.

The Haro Woods draft management plan recommends Saanich retains the current park zoning on the Saanich-owned portion of the popular recreation park after lengthy deliberations over “active” bicycling in the area failed to reach what the report calls “consensus” during the drafting of the plan.

RELATED: Draft plan bans off-trail biking in Saanich’s Haro Woods

This decision means “walking, hiking, bird watching, dog walking and recreational family cycling” remain permitted uses on the two lots that Saanich owns. The area itself consists out of four distinct lots, with the University of Victoria and the Capital Regional District owning one each.

By its own admission, the report notes that the subject of “active biking” — or off-trail biking — was the “most contentious,” because it has led to the unauthorized construction of trails and jumps among other features. “Over the years, it has disrupted other recreational activities, upset other park visitors, damaged trails, trees and underground vegetation, caused erosion and contributed to the spread of evasive plants,” it reads. This drew the ire of area residents, who called on Saanich to enforce the ban on “active” biking.

RELATED: Saanich won’t put brakes on Haro Woods cyclists

The introduction of “active biking” — once considered during an earlier stage of the drafting stage — would have required a zoning change, a process that would have likely triggered a divisive debate. While the plan’s recommendation for the status quo lowers the likelihood of such a debate, it does not necessarily eliminate it.

“It’s important to note that while the management plan recommends no changes to the park’s current [zoning] to accommodate active biking, there still exists a strong supportive voice in the community for youth biking facilities (i.e. youth park),” it reads.

While staff are currently evaluating alternative sites to accommodate active biking, not all of them appear on Saanich-owned land, it reads.

“With the increase in operational resources to monitor and remove biking elements in Haro Woods and the potential for a dedicated active biking facility to be established elsewhere in Saanich, it is anticipated there will be a shift away from active bikers using Haro Woods,” it reads.

The report suggests that cyclists might have been their own worst enemies. According to the report, Saanich staff met with “some cyclists” — the report does not identify them by name or organization — to express “concern” about unauthorized biking activities.

“Unfortunately, damaging activities continued to occur,” it reads.

Overall, the report calls on Saanich to spend $142,500 over the next 10 years to improve signage, trails and overall accessibility.


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