A bulldozer has plowed an access from the Grey Mountain Road down to the Hidden Lakes, along popular hiking and biking trails.
The city says the access is required to drill monitoring wells to look at the relationship between the Hidden Lakes and the groundwater aquifer.
But the work has been stopped for now because of opposition from the public.
The damage has stirred emotions in many regarding what’s being described as an environment mess.
A Riverdale woman expressed her concerns over the environmental damage to the Star this week.
There have also been several posts on Facebook and social media from others who are displeased or outright angry about the amount of
“What the HELL?” wrote one woman.
“It is trails like Rollercoaster that bring people from all over the world to ride in Whitehorse ... Why ruin something that was so pristine? I
had so many incredible memories on here.”
“Big equipment and grading on lower Rollercoaster. Not bikeable. Anyone know what is going on?” asked another post.
Shannon Stotyn, the woman who contacted the Star, said Thursday she would like to see an investigation into “the destruction of the trails in the Hidden Lake area.
“Although sanctioned by the City of Whitehorse, I wonder what other options existed for this work, what environmental permits and reviews were completed and if there was any public consultation,” she added.
“I also wonder what protections the area is afforded being part of the Chadburn Lake Park.”
Stotyn noted the area is of high value to all Yukoners. Now, the trails are currently impassible and a mess.
Both the city and the territorial Department of Energy, Mines and Resources (EMR) have been contacted by concerned citizens.
In a Facebook post Thursday, the city said it’s investigating, but noted the work was required to install ground water monitoring wells.
“Clearing and grubbing were identified in the Land Use Permit to accommodate access to the drill site; however, the extent of the impact
was more than expected,” says the post.
“Work has stopped, and options to address the situation are being considered. Remediation of the trails will be completed.”
EMR confirmed it was contacted. A natural resource officer inspected the site and is following up with the city.
“The natural resource officer who attended the site reviewed the permit’s terms and conditions and permit application,” Zara Soukoroff, an EMR communications analyst, said in an email to the Star this morning.
“He determined that the work being conducted was in non-compliance with the permit and the Land Use Regulation. It was not expected that anything more than minor grubbing and tree removal would be expected, as it was presented to the regulator in the Land Use Permit application form.”
The officer issued a stop-work order on Wednesday. That was rescinded on Thursday under the condition that no further construction access to the site was undertaken.
Drilling and the other work proposed under the permit is allowed to proceed.
Compliance Monitoring and Inspections and Land Use will meet next week to discuss the requirements for a reclamation plan which will then be provided to city of Whitehorse.
City engineer Taylor Eshpeter told the Star Thursday the requirement for drilling the test wells was a condition of the city’s new water licence issued last year.
The licence asked for more information, he said, adding there was a requirement to drill test wells at 11 or more different sites.
He said most of the sites were around the city’s sewage lagoons to confirm there is no seepage or contamination coming from the lagoons.
The requirement to drill the monitoring wells at the Hidden Lakes was to better understand the ground water hydrology in the area, he said.
Eshpeter said the wells were also required to better understand if there is any contamination in the area, though he emphasized there is no reason to believe there is.
The trail will be remediated by the city when the project is done, he said.
“We are coming up with a remediation plan and we will be sharing that when we get more details.”
Eshpeter said the city needed to get the drills into the site.
Not all comments posted on social media were negative.
There were a couple that suggested the bulldozed trail presents a new opportunity to improve it.
“To turn a negative into a positive ... let’s come together and build it better,” said one writer.
“There may be an opportunity here to build a fun for all ages and abilities accessible table top flow line. It’s the missing link!”
“Welp, now we may have a valid excuse for making a wide flow trail with berms and rollers,” said another.