Cyclists Denied Access to Red Pine Trail: UpdateWednesday, September 25, 2013 by: Steffanie Petroni
Lisa Venier is the Trail Crew Coordinator for the Sault Cycling Club (SCC).
In partnerships with the Kinsmen Club and the SSM Conservation Authority, Venier has been the driving force in identifying, planning and mapping the cycling trail on the Crystal Creek and Pinder trails.
“The partnership has been really successful. We located and mapped the area to eliminate excess trail building and to ensure that trails developed were well built and safe for riding.”
In August, it came as a surprise to the SCC, when they learned through the Kinsmen Club that Paul Vieira, manager of the Tarentorus Fish Hatchery, announced in a private meeting that the Red Pine Trail would no longer be accessible to mountain bikers.
“We’ve been riding on the Red Pine for almost 30 years but it was always ambiguous whether we could or not. There wasn’t any signage stating otherwise,” stated Venier.
The SCC would like to propose the same partnership to the Fish Hatchery but having not been invited to the meeting in August they felt that reaching out to MPP David Orazietti might bear more fruit.
On September 4 they penned a letter to Orazietti seeking his mediation on the matter.
A portion of the Red Pine Trails are on Conservation Authority property and another portion is on Fish Hatchery property.
Scott Elgie is an active outdoor community member as well as a member of the Sault Cycling Club and the Kinsmen Club.
He is also a member of the Friends of the Red Pine Trails.
The group was established upon hearing of the news to prohibit access to the Red Pine Trail.
The Red Pine Trails are practically in his backyard.
Elgie has recently scouted out the Red Pine Trail and observed that markers have been staked indicating that a fence may be erected to ensure that cyclists are unable to access the trail.
“It’s right along the Fish Hatchery extension of ski trails," Elgie said. "It looks like they’ll be bordering the south part of the upper trail which hugs along Fifth Line.”
Elgie is concerned that this is the just the beginning of unnecessary financial burden and a precursor to further amputation of the trails.
“To me the real concern is that we’re spending tax payer dollars on something that hasn’t been identified as having any impact on the fish hatchery. And number two, that it’s likely just the beginning of further attempts to reduce trail use. I’m sure that this is the first of many projects that they’ll try to put through.”
Though it has not been confirmed at this time sources indicate that the proposed fence stretches about 5,000 feet or one mile.
Through sources it’s been told that the fence would cost approximately $150,000.
So far there hasn’t been a comment from Vieira as to why he is denying access to mountain bikers which only leaves room for speculation.
Venier thinks that a concern could be that mountain bikers may contribute to the erosion of the soil thereby tossing sediment into the Fish Hatchery waters.
“There has been no erosion on the bike trails with all the evidence that we have. It was reported back to us from the Kinsmen that he didn’t have any evidence but that he wasn’t going to wait for it. He hasn’t explained why cycling is worse than hiking or skiing.”
It is interesting to note that recent observations of the Red Pine Trail indicate that the trail remains intact and showing no signs of erosion despite the recent torrential rains that have prompted the City to declare a state of emergency.
Venier has also heard through the grapevine that there could be concern from the Fish Hatchery that tree cutting is occurring in the area. “Mountain bike trails are skinny little trails that go around trees. We never cut trees. Half the fun is looping around through the trees.”
Venier is also quick to point out that building a fence is a greater environmental threat.
“We think that building a fence in there is going to create much more of a disturbance than mountain biking does. They will have to cut down excessive numbers of tress to build in that area. It’s also going to be an eyesore. The area that’s staked runs parallel to the existing ski trails and obviously it’s going to affect some of the mountain bike trails and make them inaccessible.”
For wildlife enthusiasts there could be some cause for concern as well.
“We don’t know what the full extent of the fence will be yet. From where it stands now, from what we’ve heard, it’s going to be a linear fence that extends a mile. Again that’s just rumour. It’s going to impact wildlife movement for sure. If they don’t enclose the fence it will be less of an issue but I think that it’s something that’s worth considering and having an impact assessment done.”
The SCC has a membership pushing 100.
SCC president Jamie Capisciolto returned home to SSM with his family in 2007.
“I used to go on those trails as I kid. When my wife and I moved back after being in Southern Ontario for ten years we rediscovered those trails and it played a huge part in us reconnecting to the City. The trails are a huge benefit in terms of the quality of life for the people who live here and they’re also a tourist attraction. The Sault is unique in that we have these trails at our doorstep.”
Since sending the letter to Orazietti there has been some discussion between Venier and Carmen Biasucci.
Biasucci is an assistant to Orazietti.
“We’ve had a couple of conversations on the phone. He’s indicated that he’s gathering more information and trying to set up a meeting with the Fish Hatchery, SCC and other interested parties.”
Venier is still hopeful that all stakeholders can reach an amicable resolution.
“I think there’s a really good solution to this that could make the mountain biking better and to ensure that we don’t have an impact on the water quality. Most of these people riding these trails are environmentally conscious people.”
Elaborating further Venier stated, “The trails are an incredibly valuable resource to the community. The Cycling Club and others in the area are working really hard to promote cycling in Sault Ste. Marie and to bring people from away to ride here and spend money here and to make it a really good experience.”
At this time Paul Vieira and spokespersons from Orazietti’s office were not available.
View our photo gallery by clicking the link below to see images of markers that have been staked probably where the intended fence would be built.