A leader of the cycling community welcomes Saanich’s plan for a bicycling park but questions the municipality’s proposed budget.
Yvonne Mendel, vice-president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition and board member of the South Island Mountain Bike Society, said she welcomes Saanich’s decision to include $166,700 in its 2019 draft budget for a youth park, which according to staff, would include an area for bicycling.
“I’m a little bit concerned that it might not be enough,” she said. While this budget represents a “good start,” Namaimo’s “amazing” park “cost a lot more” than the current budget, she said.
Nanamio city council in 2016 approved $200,000 towards the Steve Smith Bike Park named in honour of the Nanaimo area resident who died in a motorcycling accident in 2016 after winning the 2013 downhill mountain bike racing world championship. Funding also came from the local Gyro Club and Steve Smith Legacy Fund.
Mendel made these points before council confirmed its support for a bicycling park as part of a youth park following a motion by Coun. Ned Taylor.
Council’s decision came after the municipality confirmed the ban on what staff call “active biking” (including mountain and BMX bicycling) in Saanich’s share of Haro Woods. The popular area in Saanich’s Cadboro Bay neighbourhood has been the site of several conflicts between cyclists and area residents.
“Haro Woods, we have decided, is not an appropriate place for biking, so it is important that we solidify our support for building a bike park that is going to be used for that purpose and support those recreational opportunities in the community,” said Taylor.
Taylor also said that support for such a facility has existed for years, a point chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson confirmed in a response from Coun. Zac de Vries, who asked whether Taylor’s motion marked a change in direction.
“It has been on the radar of council for some time, and was included [in this year’s budget],” said Thorkelsson.
Less certain though is the future location of the proposed facility. Thorkelsson warned against issuing a public statement about Saanich’s direction before staff have identified the park’s eventual location. “There isn’t a lot of benefit in identifying that it is council’s budget,” he said.
Public support for the facility certainly appears high, if Monday’s council meeting was a measure.
Eric Dahli, chair of the Cadboro Bay Residents Association, said the neighbourhood fully supports the development of the facility.
“Years of hard work have brought Haro Woods back,” he said. “A separate facility would go a long way towards keeping Haro Woods with the intended, family-friendly focus.”
The public also heard from several parents in support of the facility, with some making specific recommendations.
Mendel said she would like to see two cycling parks in Saanich: a paved pump track with an undulating track accessible to cyclists of all ages and abilities; and a dirt jump park with significant jumps and wooden features that require less maintenance.