Smoke Bluffs committee decommissions section of controversial trail

First phase of Squamish trail to be kept as built

After members of Squamish's biking community raised concerns about the partially developed East Side Loop Trail in Smoke Bluffs Park, the park's select committee voted on whether to continue with the trail as is or find an alternate route and decommission what was built.

After much discussion in chambers on July 18, the committee denied a motion to decommission the first phase of the trail, but upheld their previous vote to reclaim the second part of the trail, past Grand Doug crag.

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At the previous April 18 meeting, many members of the public, notably mountain bikers and trials bike riders, expressed concerns and disagreement with the work on the East Side Loop Trail, which had gone beyond the Phase One and began Phase Two, past the Grand Doug crag, without consultation. Some argued the development posed risks to trail users, as it put hikers and climbers in line with a steep drop feature bikers have historically used.

Ultimately, planner Aja Philp, advisory staff member for the committee, said she intends to develop the consultation checklist the members requested during the April meeting.

At the July 18 meeting, committee chair Wesley Staven said that when the committee reviewed the maps and did a walk-through of the trail, the work done was following the plan, but the plan had been based on old trail lines, which were not accurate, Staven said.

Committee member Spencer Fitschen made a motion to selectively decommission parts of the first phase of the trail, but after discussion, only three members were in favour.

The majority of the committee was in agreement that the first section of the built trail should not be altered. Committee member Helen Habgood said it would be a shame to decommission the built trail, as it accomplished the goal of climber access to crags. She said the alternate route is much steeper, and added she thinks a decommission is a waste of taxpayers' money. Member at large, Brian Moorhead, said he agreed that a reroute would be a waste of time and money, as the emphasis was on the largest user group — pedestrians. Laura Modray added that the trail was a great way to reach the summit, and she would be disappointed to see it decommissioned.

Staven said there had been consultation regarding the first phase of the trail with user groups, and when there was a lack of opposition at the time, said the committee proceeded in good faith.

Tyler Jordan, a member of the public who raised his concerns about the trail at the previous meeting, attended the July 18 meeting and spoke again, telling the committee it was disingenuous to say the trail building went as planned. If people were concerned about money, Jordan added, perhaps there should have been better oversight.

As for the second portion of the trail, Staven summed up the concerns that it crosses existing mountain biking and trials trails, with a drop line poised just above the built trail. The work done on that section was not approved by the committee.

When the members were voting, committee member-at-large Michael Jones pointed out the committee had already unanimously voted to decommission the second phase of the trail at the April 18 meeting. Councilor Eric Anderson, a representative from the District who sits on the committee, said that motion had already been brought to District council.

"When this room was full of community members, everyone in this room voted unanimously that we were going to reclaim that trail. We have already made this vote," Jones said during the July 18 meeting. "I find it embarrassing sitting in this room now, when we don't have the peer pressure of frustrated community members not in here — keep in mind we're on video, this will be watched. Your comments today, going back on what you said when the peer pressure of the group was here, will be noted."

Jordan again spoke, telling the park committee that there already are multiple trails leading to the summit, and that there's no need to put a sidewalk-size trail in.

Since Phase Two will be decommissioned, Staven suggested the committee do another walkthrough of the second part of the trail to decide what they would propose, if they choose to continue the trail to the summit.  

*The headline of this story has been corrected to reflect that only one section of the trail was decommissioned, rather than "sections".

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