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Rithet's Bog LogoBicycles and Sensitive Environments Don't Mix

BARA Bugle (Broadmead Area Residents Association Newsletter),
Fall 2005 - Diane Mothersill & Sharon Hartwell

Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society members are concerned with the proposal by Saanich Parks to incorporate a section of the Rithet’s Bog perimeter trail into a multi-use east/west connector trail. The proposed trail route includes the northeastern part of the Rithet’s Bog perimeter trail between Dalewood Lane and the turnoff to the bridge over Gabo Creek near Fir Tree Glen.

Safety Issues

This portion of the perimeter trail is a narrow, twisting path through the woods, unsafe for anything other than pedestrian use because of its restricted width, blind curves and limited sight lines. The trail, recently officially named the ‘Rolston Trail’, is heavily used by pedestrians, including elderly people, dog walkers, and families with children and strollers. Cyclists would pose a hazard to these groups of users. If this section of trail is alienated from pedestrian use, there would be no safe way for walkers to circumnavigate the Bog, and they would have to retrace their steps when they reached the Rolston Trail’s northeast portion to avoid dangerous encounters with more aggressive users, i.e. cyclists.

Environmental Issues

Rithet’s Bog is a Nature Sanctuary and a sensitive environment. The perimeter trail has been designated a ‘specialty’ trail type under Saanich’s proposed new trail guidelines. This means that although the trail would be part of the east/west connector route, it would have its own set of guidelines, not yet determined, but certainly it would have to be widened to accommodate multi-use traffic including cyclists.

Upgrading the trail to accommodate bicycles would cause significant environmental damage. Trail widening would result in many trees being cut, the roots of other trees damaged, and could also result in debris falling into the adjacent wetlands, which is unacceptable. The initial trail work would likely require use of heavy machinery, which would compact and damage roots beneath the trail.

If the trail is upgraded to the full 3-meter width proposed as the standard for the east/west connector, damage and tree cutting would be even more extensive.

The Bog is Legally a No Cycling Area

As signs at the entrances to the perimeter trail state, under Bylaw 22, Rithet’s Bog is a ‘no bicycle’ zone, designed for low impact pedestrian use. Introducing bicycles to the Rolston Trail section of the perimeter trail would inevitably result in cyclists being tempted to ride the entire trail. These cyclists would be in contravention of Bylaw 22, as well as posing safety hazards to trail walkers. There would also be the potential for significant environmental damage, particularly if mountain bikers chose to ride off the trail, over rock outcrops or through moist meadows. We feel it is inappropriate to incorporate any portion of the Bog trail in a connector trail that would be heavily used by cyclists.

An Alternative Proposal

The proposed route for the east/west connector winds its way along Rolston Trail, then existing pedestrian trails in Broadmead, eventually ending up on the Lochside Trail. This is an ideal route for pedestrians, but we feel very strongly that cycling traffic should be routed away from Rithet’s Bog. We suggest that the cycling route (which emerges from the tunnel under the Pat Bay Highway, and reaches Chatterton Way directly across from Royal Oak Avenue) should follow Royal Oak Avenue to Royal Oak Drive, then Royal Oak Drive to Lochside Trail. Bike lanes already exist on Royal Oak Drive and could be created on Royal Oak Avenue. Under this scheme, pedestrian and cycling traffic would meet again on the Lochside Trail and be able to continue east/west or move north/south on multi-purpose trail surfaces. There would be no impact on the sensitive environment of Rithet’s Bog, no need for trail widening, and no disruption to the meandering pathways through Broadmead.

A further advantage to routing bicycle traffic along Royal Oak Avenue and Royal Oak Drive is that once the bicycle lanes are created, there would be no need for maintenance. If pedestrian trails are used, constant maintenance is required, as overhanging shrubs and blackberries would need to be cut back to a height that could accommodate cyclists.

RBCS Actions to Date

Members of the Rithet’s Bog Conservation Society attended the Saanich Parks Public Open House at the Royal Oak Baptist Church on June 1st to raise the above issues with Saanich Parks and its Contractor, and to fill out feedback forms provided at that event.

We also requested and were granted an on site meeting with Parks Director Ray Roer, and managers Gerald Fleming and Kristine Kelly. Members of RBCS and BARA walked the Rolston Trail with these Parks staff, expressing our environmental and safety concerns, and our frustration over the lack of consultation with RBCS, which is an advisory body established to make recom-mendations to Saanich on the management of the Bog.

We intend to continue pursuing our objections with Parks, and are considering approaching the Mayor and Council after the November municipal election.

How You Can Become Involved

For more information and maps consult Saanich Parks web site at http://www.gov.saanich.bc.ca/resident/centennial/trails/project.html or phone Saanich Parks at 475-5522

If you would like to express your concerns about the proposed Centennial Trail route, please consider contacting any or all of the following Saanich Parks staff:

or contact Mayor Frank Leonard or any Council member (names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of the current Council are all listed on the web site www.saanich.gov.bc.ca)

Letters to the editors of the Times Colonist and Saanich News would assist in bringing this issue to public attention.

Thank you for your continuing support of Rithet’s Bog!

Diane Mothersill and Sharon Hartwell -- 479-0491

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