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.

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

BC Housing ensures that by March 31, shelter will be available to all people living outside. (Black Press Media file photo)
All unhoused Victoria residents will be offered shelter by March 31, says BC Housing

BC Housing working to secure shelter locations in coming weeks

Robert Schram, here seen in January 2016, died Saturday, according to a friend. (Black Press Media file photo)
Sidney, Saanich Peninsula mourn the death of Mr. Beads

Bead artist Robert Schram was a familiar, well-loved figure in Sidney and beyond

Cathy Armstrong, executive director of the Land Conservancy, Paul Nursey CEO of Destination Greater Victoria and Saanich Coun. Susan Brice helped to kick off the annual Greater Victoria Flower Count at Abkhazi Garden Monday. This year, the flower count is less about rubbing the region’s weather in the rest of Canada’ faces, and more about extending a bouquet of compassion and love. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
2021 Greater Victoria Flower Count sows seeds of compassion

Friendly flower count competition runs from March 3 to 10

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Police have identified the vehicle involved in the Feb. 14 hit-and-run in Chemainus and are continuing to investigate. (Black Press Media files)
Police seize and identify suspect vehicle in hit-and-run

Investigation into death expected to be lengthy and involved

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Sewage plant in Lower Mainland, operated by Metro Vancouver. (Metro Vancouver screenshot)
‘Poop tracker’ launches as researchers test Lower Mainland sewage water for COVID-19

‘Studying the virus in wastewater allows researchers to look at an entire population…’

Most Read