EDITORIAL: Compromise preserves future of Haro Woods

It’s an unexpected treasure nestled away off the beaten path on the northwestern edge of Saanich’s Cadboro Bay neighbourhood. Located off Arbutus Road, Haro Woods is valued for its natural beauty and is popular with users of all types: hikers dog walkers, joggers and cyclists.

But the growing popularity of Haro Woods is bringing its user groups into conflict, both on and off the trails. With more and more cyclists using the trails, in some cases building jumps and making other alterations, the potential for serious injury to those walking the trails cannot be ignored.

Saanich staff is developing a draft plan for Haro Woods that aims to work out these conflicts, having surveyed the public on their preferences.

“Staff have made every effort to avoid this becoming a confrontational issue and have been actively working with the cycling community to find a solution that balances their desires with those in the community who want to preserve and protect the environment,” said Coun. Dean Murdock, who chairs Saanich’s parks, trails and recreation advisory committee.

Haro Woods’ nearly 22 acres provides more than enough area to accommodate all users. A separate area could be cordoned off from the rest of Haro Woods, where cyclists would be free to build ramps, jumps and other trail features without jeopardizing the safety of other users. The draft management plan recognizes this potential compromise, noting a biking area “will only proceed if sufficient support is received.”

Murdock is supportive of the idea, saying “creating a sanctioned park area for cyclists’ use could be a practical way to manage its use and avoid further environmental damage outside of the contained area.”

Haro Woods almost never came to be. When Saanich acquired property there (the University of Victoria and Capital Regional District also own portions of the land) in 1961 it was intended for a potential sewage treatment plant. There’s no doubt that users should be able to find compromise to preserve their enjoyment of this treasured retreat that almost never came to be.

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