Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sneaky Bikers Build Railway Underpass

Map showing location of trail work

In May 2007, the city released a document entitled Crother's Woods Trail Management Strategy. This outlined methods for dealing with trail use in Crothers' Woods as well as other connecting areas. The Parks department hopes that the trail management techniques could provide a template for the entire city since the proliferation of bicycle trails is also a problem in other ravine systems such as the Humber and the Rouge.

Before the report was released a meeting was held with the various stakeholders to discuss the report. The bikers were generally supportive of the report but were dismayed to find that the report proposed to close a trail known as "The Flats". This trail follows the banks of the river from Beechwood Drive to the south end of E.T. Seton Park. The main reason for recommending the closure of this trail is that both ends of the trail require a crossing of the CN railway. At the south end there has always been a very low egress underneath the bridge (see previous post) but the north end of the trail there was no choice but to cross the railway, until now.

The Flats has always been a favourite route for the bikers because it forms a loop with the Ridge Trail that hugs the ravine slope. Together they allow for a nice run between Pottery Road and E.T. Seton Park. So closing the trail would put a damper on a well-used if illegally accessed route.

After the meeting there was considerable discussion about what to do about the report's recommendation to close "The Flats" trail. Ideas floated included digging a tunnel underneath the railway, building a bridge over the railway or across the river, or getting permission from the railway for a level crossing. All but one of these ideas are too expensive or just not feasible. The one idea with some traction was to build a ramp underneath the northerly railway bridge. So sometime this summer, just such an underpass was created.

Bike trail trestle constructed underneath CN rail bridge

I first discovered it all finished in early September. It consists of a wooden trestle about 15 m long and about 75 cm wide. It extends from one side of the bridge to the other. It is low enough for a biker but I had to duck my head when I walked along it. It is solidly built and creatively uses available space. the bridge is resting on poured concrete pilings that are sitting on rocks that were already there. From some of the comments I've read on the biker forums it took 40 bags of cement to build.

Footings of bridge are cement poured into forms and anchored on stone

The new underpass does alleviate the problem of crossing the railway to access this trail. There is still the problem of it being on railway land but CN doesn't seem to be interested in pressing this point. There is also an issue of flooding. The bridge is about 2m above the base flow of the river but a heavy spring flood could inundate it. If that happens it is unclear whether it will survive unscathed.

Sometime in 2008 the city plans to hire a consultant to look at implementing the report's recommendations. It will be interesting to see if this trail work affects their opinion on the status of The Flats trail.


Marnie said...

I was surprised to discover that one last fall too, but I didn't realize its illicit nature. I'm always amazed at the clever and sturdy constructions along the trails. We pedestrians appreciate them too!

Anonymous said...

It is easier to ask forgiveness then it is to ask permission, my friend ;)

Anonymous said...

Most of it was financed by one biker, but a number of people contributed cash of their own accord. Many people helped, from wood donations to hard labour.

Very hard; all the rock had holes drilled and fitted with rebar. All the concrete is reinforced as a result. You'll also notice all the formed concrete is cast into 'aerodynamic' shapes to reduce drag in the water.

Extensive discussions took place beforehand where it was decided that absolutely no 'penetration' of the CN Bridge structure would take place. No holes were drilled, nothing. It is fixed to the bridge in no way.

It is holding up better than we thought it would, though a huge flood will probably take it out. Nonetheless, it has survived some surprising flooding so far :)

Anonymous said...

This structure is a tangible example of what a community can do when left to their own devices.

CN and other authorities should recognize that this is an expression of community will to play safely and enjoy natural areas unhindered.

Thanks to the builders!