Oshawa City Council has chosen a preferred alternative site for a potential bike park to replace the current unsanctioned bike park in north Oshawa.
Council recently endorsed Thornton Road Community Park as the preferred alternative site which could potentially include sports fields and a BMX facility.
“I’m sure by this point it’s been recognized by the outpouring in the petition and by general demand here that the need and the recommendation for a bike park has been fulfilled here,” says Steven Lind, the person behind a petition that has garnered more than 6,500 in favour of having a bike park in Oshawa.
“I’m proud to say the local biking community and the city have reached this point in the plans to move forward,” he says.
Thornton Road Community Park, according to a city report, is adjacent to the existing unsanctioned area, has high visibility and access from Thornton Road, is isolated from dissimilar land users, and is a large area, at 7.6 hectares (18.78 acres), that would “support a range of facility types, including a variety of bike features, skill levels and size.” The estimated construction cost would be between $520,000 and $1.5 million.
According to Councillor Rick Kerr, who brought the motion forward at a recent community services committee meeting, the land at the current site is “unserviceable” due to terrain and as such would likely be unused. However, due to the time frame in which it would take for a permanent facility to be built and operational, Kerr says the problem is figuring out what the riders are going to do in the meantime.
“The time frame may be as many as three or four years and, if that’s the case, what would these cyclists do for such activity between that time,” he says, noting it could lead to a lot of ad hoc sites popping up in CLOCA lands, which would not be very safe.
Councillor John Gray says he wants to see what comes back in terms of cost for a temporary location, noting he also doesn’t want to see an interruption for the kids.
“I really don’t want to see an interruption if the kids are getting out there and having fun,” he says. “Most importantly, they’re outside and exercising, something we need to encourage.”
Lind’s suggestion to council is to build a temporary facility within the preferred alternative site at Thornton Road Community Park, which he says could begin in early spring and be open before summer.
“Not only would this satisfy the need for better site visibility and access, but it requires the least amount of logistics in respect to creating a temporary site which has the ultimate destiny of being torn down when an official facility is created,” he says.
“It is my belief that not providing the local riding community with a temporary solution during the next four years will not only have an immediate negative impact, but also one that is long-term for both the riding community and the city.”
Lind says he fears ad hoc sites would begin to pop up tenfold, be well hidden and as protected as possible to ensure the longevity of their existence.
He adds there would also be a greater chance of these sites being created by less experienced users, resulting in potentially far more dangerous and less monitored riding conditions than at the current unsanctioned facility.
The current unsanctioned site, which is located within a wooded CLOCA regulated area on city lands on the southwest side of the Oshawa Executive Airport, is approximately 1.05 hectares (2.6 acres).
According to a city report, the site consists of a number of unsanctioned trails and riding features, which wind their way through a wooded area with no formal signage, entrance or exit. The site can be accessed from a number of different locations, but the main access route is from the South Field of the airport through a “narrow unmaintained path,” which staff say is not visible or accessible to emergency vehicles or maintenance equipment.
The report states the site poses a number of concerns related to “unauthorized activity, including but not limited to suitable emergency access and egress, lack of user information signage, traffic flow and control, and inspection and maintenance activities.” There have impacts to the natural environment, including damage to trees and vegetation affecting slope stability.
Councillor Jane Hurst, who has been to the unsanctioned site to investigate for herself, says she didn’t like what she saw.
“To say that I’m upset and concerned is very mild,” she says, noting the report is basically asking council to “sanction bad behaviour and illegal and irresponsible behaviour.”
“Honestly, my observation that day was not good,” she continues. “My heart was in my throat. The pictures do not do this site justice. I don’t know what anybody’s thinking, but it’s not a safe site.”
However, Hurst was happy to move forward to await the next report from city staff.
Gates and no trespassing signage have been installed to restrict access and the site currently sits unused pending further review
Staff will be reporting back to the community services committee next week regarding the opportunity to build a temporary BMX bike park on the south-west side of city-owned Thornton lands, closer to Thornton Road, including cost and timing.
Courtney Bachar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Oshawa Express