Whitehorse Daily Star

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Eva Von Flotow, John Quinsey, Rick Griffiths, Cameron Eckert, Doug Hnatiuk and Dave Stockdale

Support overwhelming for pedestrian-only bridge

City staff and all but one delegate at Tuesday’s council meeting agreed: the Rotary Centennial Bridge should not be open to motorized traffic.

By Stephanie Waddell on April 8, 2015

City staff and all but one delegate at Tuesday’s council meeting agreed: the Rotary Centennial Bridge should not be open to motorized traffic.

Before staff brought forward a recommendation that the bridge remain closed to snowmobiles, ATVs and dirt bikes, nearly 20 people addressed council in separate presentations calling for its non-motorized status to remain in place.

Council heard about the bridge’s 10-year history with the funding and vision for a crossing that could be enjoyed by many taking a stroll, bike ride or using their wheelchairs on the Millennium Trail.

It has become a landmark piece of the trail: a place for bird-watching, to stop and take in the large expanse of the Yukon River, watch paddlers tackle the river’s legendary current, run or wander with the kids on an afternoon stroll.

That the possibility of changing its status to allow motorized use is being considered by council just before its 10th anniversary is celebrated is ironic, noted Rick Griffiths, the first delegate to address council.

“The Millennium Trail and Rotary Centennial Bridge are highly valued for active transportation and recreation,” said Griffiths.

He cited the history of the bridge and the vision of the late Father Jean-Marie Mouchet for a trail all could use actively regardless of physical ability.

“City council, having supported Father’s original concept, used the opportunity afforded by the Urban Transportation Showcase Project, with its aim of reducing greenhouse gases, to complete an urban loop trail by building the centennial bridge, a safe route to downtown.”

Sponsorships to build the bridge from groups like Rotary clubs and others came in support of active living.

Rotary has since been among the many to voice their support for the bridge to remain non-motorized for the estimated 315,000 that have walked it in the last decade.

Griffiths also countered the view of motorized users.

“An argument used by those who would change the status of bridge and trail is that of fairness,” he said.

“Would it be fair to disavow the raison d’etre of bridge and trail? Having encouraged and promoted the use of the pedestrian corridor for more than 10 years, would it now be fair to deprive thousands of non-motorized users their right to recreate in safety without fear of being struck by a vehicle on the bridge or the two 90 degree turns on the trail?

“Allowing motorization would also detract from the intangible qualities of peace and serenity in an urban setting, free from traffic fumes and the snarl of engines.”

While motorized vehicles are not allowed on the bridge, that hasn’t stopped some from driving their machines across it.

Cameron Eckert of the Yukon Bird Club said he probably walks the bridge more than 100 times in a year, with the area serving as a good bird-watching site, especially in the winter months. About once or twice a year, he’ll see a snow machine or some other motorized vehicle on the crossing, the driver giving a bit of a “sheepish look” as they go by.

It’s not a lot of traffic, he said, but also “it’s not without its impact.”

John Quinsey of the Yukon Canoe and Kayak Club described everything coming to a halt while a machine goes by on the bridge.

He compared the situation to an obnoxious drunk who shows up to a party everybody had been enjoying.

“It changes the whole mood of the place,” he said of the moment a motorized vehicle passes.

Only one person in the standing-room only gallery admitted to riding a motorized bike across the bridge about a couple of times a year, noting the low chance for an accident if drivers are paying attention.

He said he keeps his speed low – to about seven kilometres per hour – in an effort not to disturb others on the bridge.

Questioned by Coun. Mike Gladish for his thoughts on possible regulations, such as the bridge being clear before a motorized vehicle could proceed, the driver said he would not have a problem with that.

Still a long list of others argued against allowing motorized vehicles on the bridge for a variety of reasons.

They ranged from the heightened safety risks, including more impaired drivers taking their machines across the bridge, to the disturbance it could cost users.

As one Riverdale resident who often uses the bridge said: “My dog doesn’t like motorized vehicles.”

The trail provides a more accessible route to an increasing aging population who may have trouble walking the more challenging trails in the city, it was pointed out.

And then there are those in wheelchairs who have more limited options to enjoy the outdoors.

As Eva von Flotow told council, she doesn’t get out a lot in the winter, but in the summer she enjoys being out on the trail and making her way across the bridge.

She joined the call to keep the bridge as a non-motorized route.

The input at last night’s meeting came in addition to “unsolicited” feedback the city received since 2014 on the possibility.

As explained by Doug Hnatiuk, the city’s supervisor of outreach and events, the city has heard from 210 people supporting the non-motorized status with another 59 wanting to see motorized vehicles permitted on the bridge.

The Klondike Snowmobile Association and Contagious Mountain Bike Club have also stated support for motorized use.

However, one bike club member told council last night that she hadn’t been asked by the club for input and was unsure how it had reached its position without polling members.

In his report, Hnatiuk said the issue had come up in 2013. after a number of complaints about motorized vehicles on the bridge.

A gate was installed, but not found to be successful in deterring recreational vehicles.

“The city consulted with motorized use groups to identify a solution to the conflict and were advised that the best solution would be to re-designate the bridge for motorized multiple use to allow off-road vehicles to cross the river and access trails on the west side of the Yukon River,” Hnatiuk said in his report to council.

He noted the issue was then forwarded to the city’s trails and greenways committee as well as the persons with disabilities committee, to look at.

While the persons with disabilities group brought forward a recommendation there not be any gating on the bridge and supported motorized multi-use of the bridge, the greenways committee never reached consensus on the matter.

At the same time, opinions on the matter have been continuing to come in from the general public, with Hnatiuk describing it as a divisive issue.

“At each end are the extreme users who are either completely against motorized use or who find it unfair that this bridge has been non-motorized for so long,” he noted.

“In the middle, there seem to be many who would be able to live with a shared use. Based on the principles in the 2007 Trail Plan and administration’s professional perspective is that shared use is always the most cost-effective and inclusive way forward.

“However, at this time, it does not appear that there is a strong enough community support to consider changing the bridge designation to accommodate motorized multi-use and public education is considered an effective tool in broadening the community’s perspective.”

Hnatiuk went on to note the need to also consider the support of those who originally sponsored construction of the bridge.

“At the time of development, the task force working on the bridge project were all in favour of pedestrian designation to coincide with the designation of the previously established Millennium Trail,” Hnatiuk said.

He then brought forward the recommendation the bridge remain closed to motorized traffic and that public education be improved on proper trail use in the area.

Council won’t vote on the bridge’s status until next week. Discussion among members last night appeared to mirror the divisive arguments on the bridge as well as around the procedure council is to follow.

Coun. Dave Stockdale made it clear he “never, would never” vote to allow motorized vehicles on the bridge.

His comment prompted a lengthy discussion around council procedure and whether members could express their opinion at a standing committee meeting, as last night’s meeting was.

As Coun. Betty Irwin commented, she would wait until council’s next regular meeting (where members vote) to state her views, adding that standing committee (where matters are considered but not voted on) is not the time for debate. Rather that comes at the vote for second and third reading.

Mayor Dan Curtis was quick to agree with Irwin, arguing that Stockdale stating his opinion on the issue wasn’t appropriate.

“What’s appropriate,” the mayor continued, is to hear all the information and follow process and procedures in place before voting.

Coun. John Streicker, meanwhile, suggested council members should keep an open mind before voting next week.

Comments (25)

Up 6 Down 13

seriously?? on Apr 14, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I support motorized vehicles on the bridge. Chances are they will only be on the bridge for 15-30 seconds at the most, what is the harm?

Up 13 Down 3

consensus on Apr 14, 2015 at 12:34 am

I think it's important for a mountain bike club saying they support motorized vehicles using the bridge has consensus….with so many members, survey them next time. Should be a majority consensus before you publicly call your support of such a controversial issue.

Up 11 Down 10

Walk Tall on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:53 pm

I'd like to add that I find positioning this issue as long-time Yukoners following their traditional motorized habits vs. latte-drinking newcomers pretty shameless. The conspicuous consumption of motorized toys is also a southern import.

Up 17 Down 7

Walk Tall on Apr 13, 2015 at 12:40 pm

The "greenways" committee couldn't reach a consensus? They need to change their name.

I've been here a lot longer than 20 years and it has changed. The kind of vitriol you see directed at people who diverge from the views of -- oh, miners, frackers, motorized access advocates etc. etc. -- you'd see that bitterness and rancour in chronic alcoholics or just basically, people with lots of personal problems acting out or venting. When there were fewer people you tried a lot harder to get along, and you tended to see more areas of agreement than division, by virtue of living north of 60.

And it's not just the number of people that changed. The machines themselves are much more powerful, fast and numerous.

I'm against motorized access and people at the meeting spoke better than I could on the subject. "Sharing" in this case is a deceptive term, given the disproportionate effect a motorized vehicle has on its environment and other users that extends into time and space. As for the Contagious Mountain Bike Club, they've done a lot to change the goodwill I felt towards them.

Up 2 Down 3

nope on Apr 10, 2015 at 2:38 pm

No I did not know about that place you talk about Mark. I'm going to check it out now lol.

Up 9 Down 18

Reply to Mandeep on Apr 9, 2015 at 11:01 pm

People with Thules on top of their cars are not trying to pretend as you say to being of the outdoorsy type. They carry things up there like booster cables, shovel, blanket, quick start, top rope, ratchet straps, etc. These are smart people.

Up 14 Down 21

Just an Observer on Apr 9, 2015 at 10:16 pm

Am I the only one who found it ironic (hypocritical) that the sole supporter of motorized vehicles on the trail at Monday's meeting - who admits to driving his motorized vehicle over the bridge now, honestly expects everyone to believe him when he says that he would follow the 'hypothetical law' of driving only 5 km/hour and giving the right away before crossing? Sorry supporter, but you lost all credibility that you would honour any future law when you admitted to breaking the current one.

Up 14 Down 10

Mark on Apr 9, 2015 at 9:49 pm

@ Mandeep, thank you for the best comments on this whole issue! This here is the best post ever on this issue, bar none. I sure hope the Mayor reads this with announcing that he is running again!
The thing about enviros and hippies is that they don't care about the planet.They just want their own habitat. Do these protest junkies ever go protest anything that does not directly affect them? No, of course not, they care only of themselves and playtime! I've lived in the Yukon for 20 years now and when I came up here it was so different. But since I'll be here till I die.......it'd be nice to get back to the "natural Yukon way" I moved here to get away from selfish people and the rat race of arrogance down south.T hese people want to bring it up here.

Up 8 Down 8

Mark on Apr 9, 2015 at 8:35 pm

Hey "Nope", let me ask you this since you're a biker.....Did you partake in the illegal building of the bike course at the start of zigzag trail? You know...the monstrosity built just barely in sight over the bank of the trail? The one nailed to live trees. Don't get too used to it. It will be destroyed! Mark my words! Montana Mountain isn't enough for you children?

Up 12 Down 6

Just Say'in on Apr 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm

@nope…... Actually you are wrong. Bikes are next. That is why it says the Contagious Mountain Bike club is on side with MMU use of the bridge. Because they know they are next. This same ilk that can't share don't want bikes on the trail either. There are a lot of these ex teacher types that see their activity as being holier then thou. One persons recreation is at a higher social standing then another's. Please people support sharing above all else.

Up 6 Down 30

nope on Apr 9, 2015 at 2:33 pm

I've heard alot of stupid things in my life but PG1959'S comment takes the cake. Closing the trail to bikes? Walking bikes over the bridge? If that's the case I want baby strollers banned as well so I can get some bike time for ME. Listen to how ridiculous you sound. Can't believe people agree with you.

Up 21 Down 13

Salar on Apr 9, 2015 at 2:06 pm

What a bunch of NIMBY's.

I want my OWN bridge waaaaa waaaa
I want nature waaaa waaaaa - then get out and actually see some instead of walking through a noise polluted town by a highway....wow look at the nature!

It would be nice if the orv users could at least get to the back country everybody is telling them to stick to.....
Nothing else to live for? NETFR's

Up 10 Down 9

Mandeep on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:52 pm

Well the only people we can talk to are the ones existing today. So those from the Yukon know that the gasoline motor has been important for our survival.
Take all the motors out of your life. See how your survival goes. Include the electric ones as well (because there are electric ATV's etc.)
Our modern history or what effects us day to day here does involve a lot of motors. There was this time called WWII. Read about it. Then think of the highway.

Up 18 Down 17

Yukoner on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:11 pm

"Those from the Yukon know that we've survived up here by using ATV's, snowmobiles, etc. Those not from here, shun them. "
Really Mandeep? What, does our history here only begin with the advent of 2 stroke? Dog teams, horse back, canoes, foot power too Mandeep, that's what explored the Yukon back in the day. Thanks for the chuckle though.

Up 26 Down 36

Eb on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:02 pm

The Centennial Bridge and the Millenium Trail are no place for motorized vehicles. Simple as that. Not sure why anyone would be wasting their time using their snowmobile, dirt bike or ATV on the trail anyways when we have unlimited back country open to us.

Up 23 Down 16

PJT1959 on Apr 9, 2015 at 6:59 am

To start, I know my comments on this are not going to be liked but here it is. Yes I agree that the bridge should not have motorized travel on it but bikes should also walk across it so that people with strollers handicapped (on there transport) can cross. Small kids on little bikes with parents can ride tricycle or with training wheels.
Now the real unpopular part - if the COW had left trails in Riverdale which were here longer than many people have been here so one could go out and enjoy a trail ride, then I do not think it would have been a problem with not going to the other side. But with no trails on Riverdale side what is one to do? In saying that, not being a tree hugger, there are times when trails should be closed to all but walking traffic and yes that means closed to bikes also and it is this time of year - let the trails dry up. Yes there should be just walking trails which means no wheeled traffic motorized and non-motorized.
I hope that some time there will be trails that one can leave from COW and travel and end back up in town, get a meal and go home after a day of riding. Many places are far more friendly to this than COW which just wants to get rid of us ATV and snowmobile even though we all pay taxes and they get gas tax money from us to make extensions on the bridge.
I would like to see less of not sharing to more sharing. It's a big place and yes I walk many trails and as said there are trails that need to be walking only as bikes of both kinds have rutted them. It was not ATV's as the trail was not that wide. That is my rant.

Up 22 Down 8

Mark on Apr 9, 2015 at 6:59 am

@yukoner, you are absolutely right , here lies the problem. You have an entire generation of spoiled babyboomers who have never had to fight for anything in their life. Their parents put them through university to obtain a bullsh@t degree therefore able to get high paying less work job. Every time a law is made some form of right is sacrificed. if you didn't have to fight for that right, then giving it up is less painful. Take, take, take and give nothing. Reminds me of these so called religious people who sin daily and then go to church like that makes anything better. Then the spoiled babyboomer has kids and repeats the procedure all over again with even more arrogance. Generation X is the ultimate spoiled generation and they have the nerve to call the next generation "entitled? Hey, they learned from You! NIMBY losers are destroying the north like they destroy any town they set their sights on. Oh well...in the end, I will not co-operate in the destruction of a country I would fight for.

Up 22 Down 19

Mandeep Sidhu on Apr 9, 2015 at 1:47 am

I'm tallying up all the deaths on the TransCanada trail, which is a shared use trail.
Wow, 0

Why can't we all get along with motorized users of trails? Motorized vehicles clear, maintain, and built that trail.
You're suddenly picturing thousands of motorized vehicles using this trail... why not be realistic. It might be 2 - 3, and it would only be used as a transition.

Or maybe someone training a young kid.
"There are thousands of other trails they can use..."
Yep, but they shouldn't have to. That goes against the idea of community; there is a keyword in there.

The citizens who built those trails, including the Millennium trail, did so by using motorized equipment. They found after a few years, presumably skiers, setup snare wire across the trails to discourage use. Now they risk life and limb (seriously) using something they made?

The pictures are available of the trails being built (these are through Riverdale)... ATV's, chainsaws, and a bunch of other 2 stroke equipment.

Did you know all of our trails have been made using motorized equipment? Also, I believe it's a requirement that the trails be accessible by motorized vehicles for safety? Heaven forbid a skier that has been in an accident or a walker with a broken leg suddenly needs to be transported. (Remove all snowmobiles from Mount Sima, people who are injured should be transported by dog sled).

Did you all forget about the 300 lb man that slipped on Ice and the 120 lb skier that couldn't move him?

Would you be okay with Bylaw using motorized vehicles to monitor the millennium trail? Because if you're ok with that. Most of your arguments are out the window.

I.E. ..
If a COW side by side goes by, you're ok with, but if a private persons side by side goes by...
Suddenly the dog has a conniption; the group of people has to shun the side by side and gawk awkwardly (picturing the dark glasses) with scolding stares, and the person in the wheel chair is forced to dangerously swerve off a bridge? And we can’t forget… the smell of emissions from a private vehicle is worse than a public vehicle.

Those from the Yukon know that we've survived up here by using ATV's, snowmobiles, etc. Those not from here, shun them.
"If you ever want to see the nature of the north you need to experience it by snowshoe, skis, or ... "

I wish my friends and myself could have those jobs.
4 - 10 hour a day shifts at $30.00 an hour. The rest of the time to plan exciting escapades around the city; load your Thule equipped roof racked vehicle (which increases fuel consumption drastically... DRASTICALLY, make sure you leave it on all the time to prove your outdoorsy, or because you're too lazy to take it off each time, unless you’re using that Kayak this time of year); and plan for a 3 day retreat and spend three days getting in touch with nature.

It's just not the reality for most people in Whitehorse. They don't have time to attend meetings, or to write long winded posts on the Whitehorse Star website. They're the people you see working from 8am - 10pm, 7-8 days a week, who have a hour break in between to enjoy a bit of down time. Now you're saying they can't enjoy nature, or else, they have to enjoy nature the same way everyone else does. Bollocks!

Think of the people that get maybe 3 hours alone time in a day. For them to reach the top of a mountain peak or to exert some energy on a motorized vehicle is there solace.

I’d like to remind Mr. Griffiths, who gave me an A+ on my descriptive snowmobile essay (read at the front of class too!), don't you remember what you told us?
"We send our youth away in the hopes they return to remind us of what we once were. We hope when they return to the City that can give back to what gave to them.”
While we've been gone, wow... this community is extremely divided and the serious problems are being thrown under the bridge.

The truth of the matter;
I don’t think you’ll actually stop anyone from using the trail by saying they can’t. The only difference by allowing them to use the trail is you’ll get less scolding and no tickets.

“Fall is a time of rest for nature, when the colours are bold, the winds they whisper summer’s end, as they slowly start the cold.”

Up 28 Down 28

nope on Apr 9, 2015 at 12:56 am

Rules? What rules? The arrogance from Stockdale shows his true colors. Please stop voting for this guy. Seriously.
And the majority of this trail is next to a busy road. So your fresh air and quietness whining is moot.

Up 12 Down 5

Hopefull citizen on Apr 8, 2015 at 11:47 pm

Now that common sense seems to have prevailed on this issue there is hope that the most zany, ridiculous proposal for an 8 million dollar World Cup soccer pitch will be quashed. The running track should be attached to the school areas and can be put in for a reasonable cost. I mean what are we covering this thing with--gold bricks? Thanks for the memories Dave ...

Up 23 Down 12

Just Say'in on Apr 8, 2015 at 11:07 pm

The exact same people who got together to deny access to all motorized forms of recreation on the East side of the river a while back. Now are conspiring to not allow users an out and away corridor to the trails on the West side of the river. One must remember that Riverdale is not the prosperous community that it once was. A lot of people live in apartments or forms of low cost housing. Young people that scrape enough together to afford a motorbike snowmobile or quad need to have an access to the MMU trail networks on the West side of the river as they may very well not have access to a truck or trailer. We do not want these kids trying to cross dangerous ice on Shwatka Lake or heaven forbid the river in an effort to reach the trails. This is a good wholesome activity for young people keeping them busy and off the streets. These people who under the guise of associations do not support the majority of people nor do they consult with the full population of Riverdale. Please people, see the possibility of everyone working together and sharing our experiences of life in the Yukon. When you walk on the hundreds of Kilometres of trails provided by and maintained by the Klondike snowmobile assoc of the Yukon, remember that they do not deny access to any individual or group. This should be a guiding principle for all organizations.

Up 16 Down 18

June jackson on Apr 8, 2015 at 8:18 pm

Attention Yukoner.. Why is it everyone else in need of growing up and everyone is *itching...without one constructive comment to support wha ever your view of the issue is? If you want quads and snowmobiles on the trail why not say something that could garner some support for your view?
Going into attack mode doesn't help your cause. Indeed, you come off as the one who needs some growing up....

That being said the trail was never intended for snowmobile and or quad races..people on foot will get hurt..the peacefulness of the trail will be gone..personally, I don't even like bikes and skateboards on the trail..and I don't like walkers with their dogs on the trail who don't pick up after them..that's my two bits..

Up 11 Down 21

north_of_60 on Apr 8, 2015 at 7:27 pm

The City should install Chicane Access Gates at both ends of the bridge to prevent motorized access while still allowing wheelchair and electric scooter access.
Until such gates are installed, motorized users will continue to use the bridge and thumb their noses at the law because they know they can't be caught.

Up 20 Down 8

Sheepish... on Apr 8, 2015 at 5:20 pm

This made me laugh, I mean really truly laugh. So your dog doesn't like motorized vehicles, we should probably all bend over backwards to accommodate your dogs dislike. And comparable to the obnoxious person at the party who shows up drunk? What about the sober one who's just as obnoxious and only came to whine and complain? And funniest of all is that each of these drivers that Mr. Bird watching club encounters gives him a sheepish look? Are you telling me they have all slowed down, in fact slow enough that even with their helmets on and other gear you can still see their look of sheepishness directed at you? I mean all of them, that's an outstanding coincidence Mr. Bird club. I didn't think I did but now I REALLY do, like these folks that is, they are really quite the funny bunch.

Up 55 Down 39

Yukoner on Apr 8, 2015 at 4:12 pm

The people in this city just have to bit#$ about everything - there would not have been a bunch of people getting run down. Grow up and act like adults instead of the useless bunch that is society today. Just keep asking to be lead around like sheep and when you can't take a S%$# without asking you can only blame yourself.

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