Mountain bikers in Edmonton say they’re worried they could lose the majority of trails in the river valley if a city plan is approved.
The Ribbon of Green plan has been in the works since the 1990s. This week the city moved into its second phase of consultations.
The idea is to improve recreation in the river valley while also preserving the natural habitat.
“The intention with Ribbon of Green is not to ban mountain biking; it’s to make sure that it’s incorporated into our plan and into our valley and we understand the best places for that activity to take place,” explained Lindsey Butterfield with the City of Edmonton.
The plan would designate parts of the river valley as either preservation or conservation. Only foot traffic would be allowed in preservation areas. Many of the current mountain biking trails are within the preservation areas.
“Right now there’s 300 kilometres of network single-lane trails, and if the Ribbon of Green continues as it is, it will be 20 kilometres,” said Revolution Cycle marketing manager Michael MacFynn.
Officials with the City of Edmonton dispute that. Most mountain biking trails in Edmonton were created by users, not the city, so the city says the trails are not in its inventory and therefore are not part of the Ribbon of Green plan at the moment.
A mountain biking plan will be created but likely not until budget deliberations in the fall.
MacFynn worries about being last on the to-do list.
“Ninety per cent of our business is through the mountain bike trails. If we were to lose access to mountain bike trails, there would be no Revolution Cycle,” he said.
The Edmonton Mountain Bike Association has a deal with the city to maintain the trails it uses, even though the trails aren’t authorized.
Users say that proves they help preserve the space, instead of making it worse.
“We are respectful of the environment. When it rains and stuff, we don’t ride. We don’t want mud on our tires and we don’t want to ruin the trails for anyone else,” said mountain biker Rod Boychuk.
Boychuk is an EMBA member and participates in sanctioned events where members help maintain the trails after major rain, wind or snow storms.
Instead, the riders say they would like to see signage added to the trails to help more people use them and to help in the case of emergencies.
On Thursday, Butterfield could not say what enforcement actions would be taken if the Ribbon of Green plan goes forward.
Councillors are expected to have a say on the plan in the late spring with final approval expected in the middle of 2023.