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skyguy

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  • #820913

    skyguy
    Participant

    She was actually a good friend of mine. Huge, sad loss for the community, she touched many lives and was a bright light for many people. Though she was hiking and not riding, the conditions were tricky and it was a split second misstep that changed our lives instantly.

    Not to sound morbid at all, but I will think of her fondly when I ride Etobicoke Creek at some point. I couldn’t ride for all of 2018 after a really bad crash on the escarpment in Dundas. Thankfully I survived, but her death hit pretty close to home for me. I think it’s a reminder that we all need to exercise caution when enjoying nature in its unabashed beauty…..it can be exhilarating but also very unforgiving.

    Be vigilant and safe out there. Best to you all.

    #814601

    skyguy
    Participant

    Vince is an avid cyclist and also a great resource, I speak with him regularly and would also encourage anyone here to contact him with info, questions, concerns, or suggestions. With his position in TRCA, he has a bit more latitude to deal with issues directly, say, than City municipal staff. As a result, sometimes TRCA can “make things happen” easier or more quickly.

    On a trail conditions note, has the ground started to firm up in there, or is it still slippy?

    #814355

    skyguy
    Participant

    Not sure who it was, think he had black hair under the helmet, and I recall a black beard/goatee perhaps?

    I did get out yesterday and brought a friend (did the southern loop up to Dundas and then back down to Waterfront), who loved the trail and was amazed at the riding. He found it refreshing to “get out of the City, while still being in the City”. He then went for a leisurely ride around Port Credit to explore.

    Great example of paying it forward, I think. Learning more here helped me share it with someone else who appreciated the chance to enjoy the beauty of Etobicoke Creek.

    Thanks to all of you who help make it what it is!

    #814354

    skyguy
    Participant

    Fietser,

    You bring up some excellent points, and you certainly have far more intimate knowledge of the trail and surrounding area than I do. My involvement is more recent, and while I now try to ride the creek somewhat regularly, my knowledge is much more “academic”. Seeing everyone’s passion and comments here is very encouraging, and does help provide me with much better insight into what municipalities need to improve upon, and what discussions need to take place.

    I certainly cannot speak for other municipal employees, politicians, law-makers, and officials, but I will say that I have seen an improvement during my time “in the field”, so to speak. You are absolutely right; there are differences, and there are things that have stayed the same, and there are things that may not change. I can say that I have seen more discussion and awareness happening “behind the scenes”, and I think that is a very good thing. The fact that more people are talking about cycling, trails, and the issues surrounding them, I believe, will lead to more informed decisions and (hopefully) smarter solutions. Are there still people who are oblivious, don’t care, don’t try, and don’t want to? Yes. But I do see more people trying to understand. I see people at the Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Caledon, TRCA, and MTO now asking better questions. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but at least a more productive discussion is happening in many instances. The Mayor of Brampton recently went on public record at the Brampton/Caledon trail connection opening, as advocating for more trails, better trails, better accessibility, and improving healthy lifestyles through active transportation. That is A Big Deal, and don’t underestimate the power of political will, particularly when it’s on your side.

    In terms of helping to reduce the MX users, my comments are based on “educated guess and experience”, not empirical fact. What municipalities have seen over recent years, is that when something hidden is opened up to the public at large, properly designed, promoted, and maintained, typically the unauthorized use tends to stop. Not always, but usually. Expanding the Sherway link, in this case, will certainly promote increased usage by those who might normally stop coming up from Marie Curtis. It will encourage more people to head north and then east/west, and I fully expect we will see increased use. That is by design, and not necessarily a bad thing. In this instance, the City’s operations staff can then justify patrolling the trail link on a semi-regular basis, looking for unauthorized use (ie-MX riders). But here’s the more important thing: Residents can then complain to the City and Councillors about unauthorized MX users, and the City will HAVE to do something about it, because the Sherway trail connection will be “officially” recognized by the City. Right now, it’s not an “official” trail, even though we all know it’s there. But once the City/TRCA builds that link, they will be absolutely COMPELLED to monitor its proper use.

    So here’s the key: ask the City if motorized use is sanctioned? (it’s not). Tell them there’s motorized users there and that you’re very concerned about your safety, and that you want it investigated and expect a response. They will HAVE TO respond. It may not be fast, but they’ll have to. TRCA went through the exact same thing with the City of Brampton and ATV users. Once Brampton got complaints to the councillors, they made City staff take care of the problem. TRCA got involved and they addressed (and fixed) the ATV issue. It took about a year, but it got done. So………once the Sherway trail connection goes in, look at it as an opportunity to get the City to fix the MX problem. They won’t be able to ignore it because they’ll be concerned about liability if someone gets hurt. The minute you put a complaint into writing to the local councillor, they’ll have NO CHOICE but to address the problem to show they’re not at fault if something happens and, say, a trail user gets hit by an MX user. It doesn’t matter if the MX users aren’t riding in the exact same spot on the same trail connection; they’re in the same vicinity, nobody can prove the MX guys AREN’T using the trail, and the City will HAVE TO address and fix the MX user issue. Trust me, that’s how the system works inside the fishbowl, and that’s how it can get taken care of. So in that sense, it’s actually a win-win, not a lose-lose for MTB’ers.

    Regarding Trailforks, I am indeed familiar with it. I use it on occasion to check into various trails, do research, find other riding places. In fact, Trailforks was extremely useful for my ride through Dundas Valley and Christie Lake last week. I had never been there before, and it’s easy to get lost around there. It saved my butt a few times, and I had an absolutely epic ride on a gorgeous autumn day out there. I’ll be heading back there again when I get the chance. It was very popular, with many hikers (and riders) enjoying nature.

    And that leads to your excellent point about the popularity of trails vs protecting them (I’m over-simplifying here). It’s a double-edged sword that I’m very familiar with, as I’ve struggled with this both personally and professionally in my career for a long time. I’ve advocated for installing trails where they don’t currently (formally) exist, and I am often asked, “Aren’t you doing more damage to the environment by encouraging more people to go there?” It’s a valid question, I think what is perhaps being alluded to by the Trailforks issue, and it’s not an easy answer. However, sometimes by expanding trail networks and usage, less damage/impact is done because people can use trails in the manner they were designed, rather than carving their own trails through even more sensitive areas. Trails tend to focus usage along paths of “least” impact, rather than allowing anyone to go anywhere and cause more problems. The other reason, or perhaps argument, since it’s not universally considered “fact”, is that nature can be smartly used for recreational purposes. That people have a desire to enjoy nature, and in so doing, can improve their overall health and lifestyles. The challenge, however, is educating people that there are better (and not so better) ways of promoting activities in environmentally sensitive areas (within reason), and understanding that by doing so, usage will increase, thereby posing the potential to damage what is trying to be protected.

    It’s no easy task, and your comments are exactly the type of thinking that is needed; responsible concern and thought to ask the right questions and seek the better answers. More of that is needed, and educating people is a primary way of doing that. It’s not easy, and it does take time, but like I said, I am seeing evidence of change. So I would encourage anyone, including those here, to take some comfort in the fact that you ARE making a difference. It may be difficult to see or realize, especially when someone isn’t on the “inside of the sausage” and feels frustrated. Yes, there is considerable resistance to change, and there is plenty of stupidity to go around, but I honestly think that’s starting to change. It’s not perfect, it’s not enough, but it’s a start.

    So, I guess my point is, to simply say Thank You to all of you who work tirelessly for change and improvement. That’s also why I wanted to stop by and jump into this topic with an update and summary; to show that there are many sides to the issue, but that your passion and advocacy isn’t unnoticed. The system is far from perfect, but I think you got the right idea, are asking the right questions, and pushing the right buttons overall. And to please keep it up and work towards the big picture, as it were. 🙂

    #814340

    skyguy
    Participant

    Went for my first-ever night ride in Etobicoke Creek Trail last night. CRAAAAAZY! I thought it was nuts in the daytime, wow. What a blast. My main light battery crapped out about 3/4 through the ride so that was………interesting. Note to self: double-check battery charge before next night ride. Good thing I had a secondary helmet light on but it was not terribly bright, better than total darkness though.

    Met a fellow rider on the trail too, close to Queensway I think (?) last night. I’m assuming it was one of you guys since he said he has ridden “hundreds of hours” in the creek trail. Was dark out obviously, but I believe he was riding a black plus-sized hardtail. Nice guy, patiently waited for me to pass while I was trying to take photos in the dark LOL (sorry, I was unaware he was there waiting for me!).

    Gonna hopefully hit the trail again in the morning with a newbie MTB buddy of mine and show him the south loop and Marie Curtis area. Should be good weather, crisp but hopefully dry out there.

    #814339

    skyguy
    Participant

    Hey guys, thought I’d drop in again to help shed some light on these projects.

    A few topics are happening here, so I’ll try to summarize each:

    1. Sherway Trail:
    Fietser is generally correct on his comments (very astute of you! ). This project has been on the books for a long time, and indeed they are looking to move on it sooner rather than later. The reason is Toronto and TRCA will have to wait for the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) if they don’t go ahead now. By now, I mean “Spring 2017”. Construction won’t happen this year, it’s too late in the season to start. MTO is planning on QEW upgrades, and they call the shots. Toronto and TRCA will have to bend to MTO’s will. But if Toronto can move quick, then they don’t have to sit around for another couple years waiting to build the trail.

    The trail will be of a similar standard (3.0m wide, asphalt) to what’s done on the southern portion to Marie Curtis. The trail layout will pick up just south of the QEW by the ball fields, and generally follow the singletrack northward, under the QEW. But it’ll head west rather than east (splitting off from the singletrack) and connect to Sherway Road. The reason for this is true, the City wants to make “connections” to other path networks. They won’t go further north though. There simply isn’t enough space, it’ll do environmental damage, and cost too much money. Further, the City’s notion of an “off-road” trail is not biker’s notion of “off-road’. An off-road trail to the City is simply that; it is not ON the road. An off-road trail can be asphalt or gravel, but it will be fairly wide, accessible and generally minimal slope. North of Sherway Road cannot meet these criteria either, so it’ll stay as is. Also, the City can then claim they’ve “connected” to other pathways, and there will be no reason whatsoever to continue in the valley/creek area further north.

    This is a relatively easy, inexpensive, high-return (politically and functionally) for their work. It’ll address commuting, recreational, and general biking usage, and the reality is it really won’t affect the Etobicoke Creek singletrack except for a few hundred metres of mostly grassy trail anyways. So MTB’ers can still do as always, and it should also help reduce the motorized MX use as well. Overall, it’s generally a win-win for everyone, with little to lose for MTB’ers.

    2. Etobicoke Creek North
    I talked to the MTO very recently and they mentioned they’re apparently planning on doing structural work at the 401 area of Etobicoke Creek, starting in 2017 or 2018. It’ll only be for the duration of the bridge work, and then they’ll return the access to the current configuration. Not sure they’ve publicized this very much, but they’ll have to maintain existing access, so in all likelihood they’ll divert the main trail up to street level, across, and then back in. Keep in mind, this shouldn’t affect singletrack on the valley sides, just the “main” gravel/asphalt trail directly under the bridge structure.

    More importantly, the City of Brampton will be constructing the final missing link of Etobicoke Creek Trail in Spring/Summer 2017. This will join the top end of Mississauga near Drew Road, under the 407, under the 410, and into the land behind the Powerade Centre. Cyclists will then be able to continue on the existing trail, northward, and into Caledon. The City of Brampton constructed a gravel trail connection into Caledon this summer, allowing users to go theoretically from Caledon, to Brampton, to Mississauga, to Waterfront Trail, ultimately to Niagara-on-the Lake (if they have the legs LOL) by Summer/Fall 2017. That’s a very big deal. It also means cyclists coming from Etobicoke via the Humber Trail will then have access across the area around the airport, and into downtown Brampton. So anyone looking for a long CX ride or commuting will finally have a safe, off-road route.

    The reality is the formal portion of this Etobicoke Creek Trail will be a mixture of asphalt and gravel, fairly flat, and a very nice experience. It will not affect any of the singletrack, as those will remain untouched. Again, this will be a case of the “visible” trail (runners, bikers, etc) versus the “invisible” trail (MTB’ers, singletrack). So, while Etobicoke Creek Trail will technically be expanded and connected, it is only the main trail, not the side trails, singletrack, etc. Those will all remain as is, in their current state.

    Vince d’Elia at the TRCA will be the Project Manager for the Sherway Trail project, and he’s also involved with the north and Caledon portions as well. He’s actually an avid cyclist (MTB and some roadie) and he’s very aware of the MTB situation in Etobicoke Creek. Of course he does represent the TRCA in the “official” day-to-day work, but being a rider he also understands the “informal” situation. Great guy, approachable, and can answer any questions about trails in the Etobicoke Creek area and Humber watershed jurisdiction.

    In the end, I think expanding trails encourages more people to cycle, offers people better and safer ways to commute to work by bike, get out and explore the cities and natural areas, and helps foster taking responsibility of caring for the land around us. In this particular case, it’s a win-win for many people of various intentions, and it shouldn’t adversely affect the current MTB crowd much at all. I truly think this is A Good Thing.

    #811456

    skyguy
    Participant

    Aerius, that sounds like a solid plan.

    If you ever have any questions, or want to bounce ideas, please by all means let me know. I’d be happy to answer if I’m able.

    Food for thought: the TRCA can be a powerful ally. They have some clout when it comes to valleylands and dealing with municipalities. TRCA may have a position or ideas on how to approach usage in the valley because they actually construct trails in the valley, and are very experienced with mountain bike users and “active vs passive recreation”. Also, since the trails technically fall within their jurisdictional interest, they do have some say and/or knowledge about how to deal with trails in the valley. TRCA is good to deal with, they understand there’s a desire for trails in valleys and they’ve been strong advocates in many instances around the GTA. Approaching the TRCA and getting them onboard (or at least in the loop) might be a very good opening move.

    I know the guy at TRCA who’s in charge of trails for the area including the Etobicoke Creek Trail. He’s on vacation next week, but I’ll give him a call if you’d like when he’s back and have a chat. He’s very experienced and is actually an avid rider himself, so he may be willing to reach out to you guys and have a chat.

    I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes here, but if you’re open to it, I’d be happy to make a call.

    #811448

    skyguy
    Participant

    First, let me apologize if I came off as “anti-advocacy” or anything of the sort. That was not my intention whatsoever. So if there’s any miscommunication on my part, my apologies. I think there are some amazing people doing some amazing work in the GTA’s trails, and to all of you who participate, my sincere thanks. It’s people like you who make mountain biking exciting! I am one of the people who directly benefits from your hard work and dedication!

    My intention was to simply outline the current situation, and explain the City’s response. I wanted to illustrate what currently is, not what could be. In this context, the City is bound by legalities, and hence their response. For THEM, it’s not a question of definition of “active recreation” (which by the way, Repack is entirely correct that it is subject to some interpretation and could absolutely evolve over time!). For THEM, it’s a question of what law requires of them. So, even if the Advisory Committee and TRCA believe trail expansion, for example, is a good thing, the City will still say “No”. Short of changing the law (which in this case, is based on safety risks), the City will always say “No”. That’s not to say that things can’t be improved, but the fundamental reason will remain the same.

    My only concern was that there is a risk of having the City take more “extreme” measures to prevent unauthorized usage (ie-mountain biking) in the valley if they are poked. So, again, my intent was not to say advocacy is worthless. My point was that if everyone is currently enjoying the valley and self-policing its usage and maintenance, then there is a risk of losing that if the City’s hand is forced. That’s all I was trying to say.

    So in direct reference to Tom’s comment, please don’t think you’re wasting your time. My intent was also to help educate, so you can speak their language, understand their position, and quite frankly, know when they’re bullshitting you. I wanted to give a behind-the-scenes glimpse so people realize how the game is played, and can then maybe affect positive change from within. Believe it or not, I was honestly trying to provide a bit of ammo for everyone in your advocacy. Because I’ll be honest, the City is a big machine that can easily chew up the little guy. I see it, and I don’t like it. But sometimes ya gotta know how the game is played in order to change things.

    Again, my apologies if I was unclear. The passion in this forum and on the trails is absolutely amazing, and we need more of that. Some battles can be won, some can’t, but I guess that shouldn’t stop us from doing was we believe in!

    #811437

    skyguy
    Participant

    Preamble:
    I met one of you guys last Fall in Etobicoke Creek trail, didn’t catch your name, but I believe you were riding a black and green carbon, rigid-fork hardtail, and heading north. I was on my first real MTB, a new Salsa El Mar, and as a “roadie who’s trying mountain biking”, you suggested I check out this site and I’ve been a lurker ever since. But reading this thread I felt compelled to formally register to log my first post.

    Disclosure:
    Due to my career position and desire to avoid potential optics/conflict problems with my work vs personal life, my apologies in advance that I can’t offer too much information about myself on a public forum. The reason is that I work for a municipal body in the GTA, and I’m one of the guys who is directly responsible for getting trail systems designed and built, the Etobicoke Creek Trail included. I deal with municipalities, conservation authorities, and cycling advisory committees on a regular basis, and am intimately aware of the problems, challenges, interests (or lack of), and responses of each. So, after seeing the post above by fietser and the letter/response from Mississauga, I wanted to shed some light, if I may.

    Commentary:
    With my passion for cycling (Road, CX, MTB) I’m in a bit of a unique position in my day job, with the opportunity to take my personal viewpoint on trails, land issues, public views, etc and translate them into action out on the trails. So in that sense, I’m constantly excited by the progress and work we all do as cyclists, advocates, and volunteers. That said, with my “municipal” hat on, I see the flipside of the coin all the time.

    So, here’s the way the chess board is laid out:

    The City (whichever one, doesn’t matter, since they all are bound by the same rules, regulations, and Acts) typically owns the valleylands. Not always, but usually. And due to zoning restrictions, most valleylands are typically designated either Open Space or Hazard Lands. When they are Hazard Lands, the “official” permitted uses are extremely restrictive. Basically, they can’t be used for anything other than “nature” area, or possibly Passive Use/Recreation (more on that in a minute). Insofar as we may not like it nor agree with it, mountain biking does not fall into the permitted uses within the zoning designation. So, the City will always ALWAYS reply with the stock response of “Mountain biking is not permitted/sanctioned/etc”. Even if it makes sense, even if we offer to maintain, it will not matter. Period. The reason is simple: if the City sanctions it “officially”, then two things happen: first, they are in contravention of their own zoning, which is not only hypocritical but it’s also politically and legally problematic; second, the City can be found liable in court for damages if someone is injured and sues the City, because they went on record as sanctioning a non-permitted use and access. So they will ALWAYS say “no”.

    Now, the issue is complicated by the Conservation Authorities. They typically don’t own the valleylands, but they have “regulatory jurisdiction” for any land within a floodplain. And essentially all valleylands are located in the floodplain. This means the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has a binding say on any development, mitigation, alteration, or activity proposed within the valleylands. This means whether or not the City wants something, the TRCA can object on a variety of grounds. Now, I’ve found the TRCA to be pretty good partners, and I’ve installed trails in valleylands WITH their help, but the problem is the TRCA has an absolute MANDATE to protect the watershed and its affected properties, which include all valleylands. So, the TRCA must balance their wants (ie-install a trail) with their unbiased mandate to protect the land (ie-mountain biking can be destructive IF not done properly). So then advocacy groups could get the TRCA onboard, but the City could refuse. Or vice versa. It’s tricky, trust me.

    So then we have to address the issue of “active vs passive” recreation. The reality of the definition is that regardless of what cyclists/riders think, all biking is deemed “active” recreation. It’s inherent to the sport/activity. Period. Passive recreation could be considered walking. Even hiking could be considered active. So basically, passive recreation is barely touching the land. VERY minimal impact. So, whether the City or TRCA agrees with installing a trail, the potential destructive impacts of “active” recreation must be weighed against the potential benefits of the users (or not).

    And lastly, the Cycling Advisory Committees are simply that: advisors. They wield no authority, no power to implement, they own no land, and have no jurisdiction. They are there only as advocates, and need someone in a position of authority to no only agree with them, but have the ability to affect change. CAC’s are basically lobbyists, more or less, who operate under the guise of change and implementation, but lack actual power.

    Recommendation(s):
    With that all said, despite my passion as a cyclist, despite our good efforts and intentions, and despite prevailing logic, I am sorry to say, but after many years of doing this, here’s the harsh reality:

    Do what you want in the valley, but do it “unofficially”. Do not poke the City, do not get on their radar. As long as there are no problems, the City will indeed willfully ignore you and let us continue to use and maintain the trails without issue. They know it exists, but as long as nobody complains, you’ll have latitude to just do your thing and they won’t bother you. But if you push and make it “official”, then they’ll have no choice but to address it. They’ll be FORCED to. Because politically and legally, they will have NO CHOICE otherwise. They’ll have to send TRCA agents or By-Law enforcers in there, monitor, and possibly issue tickets. I’m serious. I’ve seen it firsthand. But if you operate within your own sphere of influence with other riders and informally promote the valley trails amongst other responsible riders, then the City can claim ignorance and no adverse response will be triggered.

    I wish it were different, I truly do. Unfortunately, in my day job, I’d have to do the same thing if a letter like that came across my Inbox. And I’m the guy who gets the trails designed and built! I’d have no choice. But on these forums, I can advocate all I want with my cycling hat on, so to speak, to help fellow passionate riders understand how the chess board is laid out and how the game is played. It’s “change from within”, albeit slightly surreptitiously, rather than through official channels.

    My apologies if I’ve burst a bubble, I hope I haven’t come off as a downer. Truly, I’m a dedicated roadie, I commute regularly to work and everyone there knows I’m the crazy cyclist, I take my kids mountain biking at Kelso and Albion (they’re beginners) and I love riding in Etobicoke Creek, I’ve done it many times from top to bottom since part of it is actually in my jurisdiction and project portfolio. I love it, I want to share it, and I want to help offer info or advice if anyone has questions, but I also want to temper the expectations with a dose of unfortunate reality. So please don’t take this as any sort of pushback or deflection against your advocacy. Far from it. I’m behind you! But I’m also painfully aware of how things work on the other side of the stage, so I just thought I’d pull back the curtain a bit to give a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes.

    Hope that helps.

    Enjoy your ride, hope to see a few of you in Etobicoke Creek! 🙂

    ~Skyguy

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