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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Mental Health: Erasing stigma leads to new path for Victoria woman

Paula Roumeliotis struggled with bipolar disorder for 35 years before finding support

COVID-19: UVic Engineering to 3-D print 4,000 face-shields for frontline workers

Team working to ensure Island health care workers have personal protective equipment

Health care workers gain access to virtual health care options

During COVID-19 many clinics have closed, leaving health care workers with nowhere to turn

Trudeau rejects mandatory stay-at-home order for now; COVID deaths up

The virus has now infected more than 10,000 Canadians and cost 130 their lives

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

Family uses social media to help truckers find places to eat during pandemic

Restaurants Serving Drivers in Western Canada seeks to provide a list of places open for drivers

Cowichan couple won’t self-isolate after returning from overseas

New law requires 14 days of self-isolation when returning to Canada

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

B.C.’s senior home staff measures show results in COVID-19 battle

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s order restricts care aides to one facility

Independent investigation praises RCMP actions in Vancouver Island suicide attempt

Man hurt in incident that took place near Nanoose Bay in September of 2019

‘A matter of human decency’: Truckers’ union calls on gas stations, rest stops to fully re-open

Teamsters Canada wants feds, provinces to put pressure on facilities to re-open for transport workers

B.C. unveils $3.5M COVID-19 emergency fund for post-secondary students

Money will help students cover living expenses, food, travel, portable computers

Most Read