Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Deputation on BMX Facilities in Toronto

On Friday, I attended a meeting of the Community Development and Recreation Committee at city hall. I was there to make a deputation on an item entitled "BMX Facilities in Toronto". This was item 6 on the agenda but item 1 was a major item called "Starting in the Right Place: A New Approach to Employment and Social Services in Toronto". There was a staff presentation and several deputations so it took nearly two hours of waiting to get to item 6. There were about 90 people in attendance, most of whom left after item 1.

The item I was interested in concerned the presentation of a report produced by staff on the state of BMX facilities in Toronto. Here is part of the text I delivered in my deputation:
Over the past several years, I have observed an increase in activities in our ravines with respect to cycling activities. In particular, is the relatively new sport termed “BMX Freestyle Dirt Jumping” which involves the creation of a network of earthen jumps and ramps for bicycle stunts.

While they are no doubt fun to build and use, they have a serious impact on the natural environment including soil compaction, increased erosion, and disturbance of the forest understory. In some cases trees have been cut down either for construction material or to clear space for these earthen jumps. Some of these sites are well maintained but others are strewn with garbage and refuse. If they are abandoned then the forest takes many years to recover.

I believe many of the problems are related to supply and demand. There are simply not enough facilities in the city to meet the increased interest in this sport. In addition, the existing facilities are widely spaced and not easily accessible. Scarcity and accessibility issues have led to the proliferation of informal ravine dirt jumping sites.

I agree with the report’s recommendation that a dialogue with members of the BMX sporting community needs to be continued. The city also needs to engage youth and encourage them to join clubs which can sponsor organized activities.

I also think that the lack of places for these activities can be addressed by the creation of more facilities which should be dispersed throughout the city. Toronto needs at least three more, one centrally located, and two others in Etobicoke and Scarborough. These facilities need to be developed in consultation with prospective users since a poorly designed facility will be underused. To me, the attraction to dirt jumping is two-fold. There seems to be as much enjoyment out of building the ramps as there is in using the finished course. Cyclists should be allowed to create and modify their own dirt jumps at city facilities. A supply of soil, water, and tools will be needed at each site.

Once there are sufficient facilities available, we can direct Parks, Forestry and Recreation staff, to close down and restore the informal ravine sites. We cannot in good conscious call for the removal of these sites if there is nowhere else for them to go. To remove them without first creating alternatives for these activities would only lead to their creation somewhere else.
As it turned out I was not the only deputant. A dedicated mountain biker who goes by the handle Solotrek, has used facilities such as DJs which I have previously written about. He was more up to speed on the current facilities and I was somewhat chagrined to discover that they are poorly maintained and are not in very good condition. The two sites, one behind an arena near Bayview and Cummer in Willowdale and the other in Wallace Emerson Park in the Dupont-Landsdowne area are in park areas out of site from staff. They don't keep a good eye on them so they are often used by off-leash dog walkers and the result is a lot of dog poop which is not fun to ride in. At the Bayview site someone dump piles of fill on the course making it partially unusable.

Bayview site, covered by illegally dumped fill (photo by "Ghettocruiser")

Dirt jumps at Wallace Emerson Park (photo by "Solotrek")

If the current facilities can't be properly maintained I am not holding out much hope for new locations. The city really needs to work with local bike groups to maintain these sites better and get new sites constructed. Only then do I see any progress being made to windup places like DJs.


Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that one of the builders was there to try and establish a working relationship with the city .
In my eyes the lower part of the Don is a waste land , you have no idea the things that come out of the dirt that you value so much . I have a very big problem with you telling people that trees are getting cut down by the jumpers and the builders of the jumps , none have been cut down , we always go around them , periodically we come down to the jumps to find that someone has cut a tree down for the sole purpose of causing harm or to make the jumps unusable , but I guess you were unaware of that too !!

Get your facts straight before running off at the mouth would be greatly advised

Have a nice day !

Donwatcher said...

Dear Anonymous,

If you read my deputation carefully you will find it says "In some cases trees have been cut down either for construction material or to clear space for these earthen jumps". I said 'some', not 'all'. DJs might be well run but there are at least half a dozen other dirt jump sites in the Don and neighbouring ravines.

One site in particular near Blythwood and Mount Pleasant had some trees cut down, trees on slopes undermined, and garbage all over the place... and I have pictures to prove it. I've been holding those pictures back but maybe I should post them to prove my point. Keeping checking Don Watcher for the facts!

Reaction said...

This is not about Blythwood. This is about the Don. Those trees are NOT removed by riders they are removed by the city or by Hydro. get your facts straight. We are on the same team here. We want to use a place that we both love. You are a great advocate for the don, you are passionate about the fight. And we are as well.

What bothers me is the lack of respect you give to riders of the don. The riders that keep the network of trails clean from garbage and that make sure EVERY user of the trails has a good time. This includes fallen trees that block the trails and picking up little bags of dog crap left behind from dog walkers. I don't see you attacking them.

Their dogs run free chasing animals and crapping in the woods while not picking it up. So in your eyes this would be ok? i would only assume you own a dog and do the same thing? Or am I wrong? Maybe.

But you are wrong about the information you spew out to the city and on your blog. You should step up and come and talk to the people you are trying to bash to get the true story before you bash them.

Get a bike and ride the Don trails. Only then will you see how we all feel about the area.

Anonymous said...

i would just like to add that I have seen you in the don and I do remember you saying how much you like the jumps and how great they are. And then the next time I hear about you its all about how you hate the the jumps and trees are being cut down. Just confusing really.

Also like it was said above. You have no idea how much crap and garbage comes from this soil you charish so much. Old beds, candy wrappers over a foot down. Bottles, shoes, old tools well below the 1 foot mark. This is a dumping ground. Nothing more. Well maybe a flood plain as well in which case is our problem. The flood comes and then removes what we put in. So we rebuild it with the KIDS that love to ride them. I'm not talking about 15 year olds eaither I'm talking about the 13 and under kids that now have something to do other then sit in front of the tv.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read anything in the deputation that would suggest bike riders bashing. On the contrary, you guys might find here a good advocate (maybe even one the very few who would speak in your favour). I ride in the Don too, I'm perfectly aware of all the garbage and I've also helped cleaning it up so I also know what I'm talking about and I don't like dog walkers anymore than you do. However, with the many users of the Don, there has to be some some rules out there to protect it and make sure it can still be enjoyed years from now.