Friday, January 12, 2007
Crothers' Woods: the Other Side of the Tracks
Crothers' Woods: the other side of the tracks (click to expand)
Crothers' Woods is a fairly well known location in the Don Valley. It is the area bounded roughly by Pottery Rd and the Leaside Bridge on the north and west side of the river. It is a popular area for hiking, dog walking and mountain biking. The main trail hugs the western slope and can be followed all the way east to E.T. Seton Park.
One of the defining features in this part of the valley is the CNR tracks. They travel through the bottom of the valley going back and forth across the river depending on how the river meanders. Just south of the North Toronto Sewage Treatment Plant, the railroad crosses the river and creates a sliver of land that is very hard to access. Technically, it is illegal (and dangerous) to cross the tracks. Yet there is a section of this bridge that crosses over a low part of the riverbank where, if you duck down, you can get under the bridge to access this section of the valley. Because this section is relatively inaccessible, it has been informally adopted by the mountain bikers.
There is a trail known as "The Flats" that runs beside the river all the way to E.T. Seton Park. Coupled with the ridge trail this forms a loop which many of the bikers enjoy as a single circuit. Their use of this section of the valley hasn't stopped here. A subgroup of mountain bikers likes to do "stunting", basically pedalling their bikes over a series of jumps or narrow bridges placed in a certin sequence to create a challenge course. In the Don this has been done at two places. One place is known as "DJs", (short for Dirt Jumps, see map). This area has been highly modified with packed earth jumps and ramps. They are set in sequence so that the bikers can practice their skills over a set course.
Series of packer dirt jumps at DJs.
Bikers have a nice little camp setup nearby.
More jumps setup in a grove of Cottonwoods and Manitoba Maples.
The pond next to DJ's. A popular spot for Black Crowned Night Herons to fish.
Another area known as "The Camp" (see map) has been used to build some wooden bridges, ramps and teeter totters which is another type of stunt used by the bikers.
Bridge and turnpike for mountain bikes
Ramp at the camp
If you make it to the top, you then have to jump down to the bottom since it ends abruptly!
This area has existed for at least two years and has been recently expanded. Due to the inaccessibility of the area and also due to the degraded nature of the natural environment, the city has allowed it to remain. There is currently a city wide issue with these types stunt areas and they can be found in several places throughout the watershed. This is partly due to the fact that there is no official place available where bikers can go to practice and perform.
A management plan is currently being created to take care of Crothers' Woods and the use of this area will certainly be mentioned. As part of the study process, public consultations were held and the mountain biking community was consulted about their needs.
While it is too early to predict what the plan will say, the prevailing wisdom is that this type of activity doesn't conform to the use of a natural area. However, places like DJs can't be successfully closed down until the city develops facilities in regular parks for this type of activity. Until then I think we are stuck with it.