Twelve Mile Creek already has many established, existing multipurpose trails that have been used for decades by recreational riders, but most of them are on the lower section running along the waterway area of 12 Mile Creek. The mountain bike racecourse that is being built will add as many, if not more tracks to ride, turning the ravine into a mountain bike playground; and it is being constructed on the higher slopes and will not be a multi-purpose usage trail system.
There are also several unique characteristics of this location that needs to be taken into account when discussing why this location should not be used to build a competitive racecourse:
- It is in a residential area. Building such a course in a residential community is unheard of, and without precedent.
- It is in a ravine, and ravines have special problems related to water flow.
- The top of slope of this area is designated unstable, and there are known stability issues with its steep slopes.
- It is part of a unique biodiverse Carolinian life zone with irreplaceable mature forest and extensive species of native plants and wildlife, many of special concern.
- It has a broad diversity of important ecological habitats including mature woodlands, unique coldwater creek, wetlands, ponds, meadows, rock outcrops.
- Most of it faces north, resulting in wetter, muddier trails which are known to cause greater negative impacts to ecology.
- It is a significant corridor connecting the urban valleyland with the Niagara Escarpment, contributing to the preservation of important flora and fauna in the City and Niagara Region
- Mountain biking on the slopes is not appropriate here. Also, adding the higher impact of racing events would increase ecological damage and create security issues for residents due to lack of easy public access to the area.
There are several much better locations to prepare and host the mountain bike competition for the Games, but based on our research it would appear that these locations were not seriously considered: such as Rotary Park and the Glenridge Quarry Naturalization Site. Games officials stated that they discussed possible options with the mountain bike community in Niagara, but we did not find any evidence of this. They then said that Cycling Canada “had chosen” the new Twelve Mile Creek mountain bike racecourse among several options proposed. This is also not true. Steve Bauer personally confirmed this with Cycling Canada. The racecourse was moved from Brock University lands to Twelve Mile Creek ravine on a decision made by the Canada Summer Games proposed by, and in partnership with the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association. See Steve Bauer’s Open Letter to the Niagara Community.
Jeff Burch MPP has been instrumental in helping us get further information. Using briefing materials we provided, his office spoke with Brock officials and the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) and confirmed that NEC never received any formal request from the Games and that Brock denied they ever said no.
The decision that was made by the Games to relocate was entirely made by them..
The Niagara Trail Maintenance Association (NTMA) was formed in the late spring of 2021. They quickly entered into talks with Games officials for the group to be the sole contractor for the building of the racecourse for the Canada Summer Games, signing an agreement in July 2021. An announcement was posted on their Facebook page that stated:
“Canada Summer Games (CSG), OPG and the City of St. Catharines have entered into an agreement for the use of the land to build a MTB course. CSG and NTMA have in turn entered into an agreement to build and maintain the course. All contracts have now been signed. NTMA plan to have shovels in the ground July 31st.
The NTMA does trail development and maintenance across Niagara and while we support their community efforts, we are adamantly opposed to their role in the building of the racecourse in 12 Mile Creek. We have serious questions about the Games and the City of St. Catharines handing over stewardship of the ravine to a mountain bike association, whose primary emphasis may not be on protecting the environment but on building and maintaining track for their sport. We have witnessed firsthand that this group may not be properly trained for the task of environmental conservation, despite their claims and best efforts.
The Games frequently cites the International Mountain Bike Association as their source for trail construction methods. However, IMBA requires proper environmental assessments, professional trail construction teams, and pre-construction planning for sustainable funding for maintaining the trail system into the future. We question whether these requirements are met here.
At the end of August 2022, the Games will be concluded, the role and authority of senior Games officials will be concluded, and they will move on, and the temporary Licence Agreement from OPG specific to the Games will be concluded. The racecourse built for the Games will be turned over to the NTMA who built the course, for ongoing development and maintenance on behalf of the City.
We find it interesting, and rather disconcerting that the City has claimed that they have no authority over what is being done because OPG owns the land, but there has been a “game plan” from the outset to use the Games to build a mountain bike playground that the City would manage thereafter, using the mountain bike group. This plan is always justified in terms of a legacy for the community.
Please note that the pictures in this promotional article only showcase upgrades and improvements to an area of the course that has had rogue, existing trails in the recent past. Nothing in such articles show or highlight construction work that has been done in the new areas on the middle and upper slopes. Here is a promotional video for the “new trail system” , as it is being characterized by the Games and the Mayor of St. Catharines, again showing basically the same areas; reinforcing the impression that what is being done are improvements to an existing trail system for the Games and for Niagara. It is already being promoted as Niagara’s First Mountain Bike Park. (screen shot from the video).
In securing this legacy, the Mayor and the City are implicitly supporting actions that are directly in violation of the City’s own environmental policies and protection? We think it is absurd that it is somehow justified to cause this degree of environmental damage for the sake of creating an unnecessary new trail system. All under the guise of construction of a racecourse for the Canada Summer Games.
Games officials and the Mayor have publicly expressed their gratitude to the NTMA for their volunteer contributions to building a course for the mountain bike competition for the Niagara Summer Games. Whether it be the Olympics, the Pan Am Games, or the Canada Games themselves, Host City’s depend on community volunteers to make the event a viable reality, financially and organizationally.
So we applaud the NTMA for the work they have done as contractors for the Games in donating time and effort and resources towards the goal of building a mountain bike course for the Games; despite our opposition regarding the location, environmental impacts, etc.
But we have questions about the appearance, in our view, of getting “sweat equity” from a community volunteer group for the building of a mountain bike course for the Games, based on an implicit understanding and promised agreement that this same group would have the course to use thereafter as their mountain bike playground (called “Niagara’s first mountain bike park”) in a residential ravine setting
There was always an established, existing trail system in this ravine area, but located primarily on the lower section, with the main trail following the creek itself. But the new racecourse has been constructed in areas on the upper slopes of the ravine in close proximity to residential properties. The construction of a mountain bike racecourse and playground such as this, in a residential ravine area is setting a disastrous precedent, and according to Steve Bauer, completely unheard of.
This is not Blue Mountain Resort, nor Kelso, nor Hardwood Hills, nor Grouse Mountain, Whistler, Squamish, Mont-St-Anne, Tremblant, etc. This is a RESIDENTIAL RAVINE! The neighbourhood and its resident stakeholders have NEVER BEEN CONSULTED on this development.
And what about increased safety issues for this community? This neighbourhood is known for decades to have issues with thefts and home break-ins. It is known (and confirmed by Niagara Regional Police) that the Twelve Mile Creek trail system is used to access the property backyards and the rest of the neighbourhood to conduct crimes.
This area is private property, as it is owned by OPG. Therefore, the police do not have a legal mandate to patrol this area, as they would a city street or park. If the racecourse is allowed to be used by any persons, without proper over-site, our neighbourhood is going to be put at greater risk.
The police response to these crimes is limited as they don’t see themselves chasing the thieves through the trails. Moreover, in the most recent years, this neighbourhood has seen sexual and physical aggressions on the near by trails. The new racecourse will give them further and easier access to properties and put children, adults and the elderly in vulnerable situations.
The fragile area in the Riverview ravine is only a small part of the Twelve Mile Creek valleyland. However, it is rich in unique and beneficial wildlife and vegetation (including many protected species), and is an important part of the ecology of the greenbelt that runs through the City of St. Catharines and into the Niagara escarpment.
This type of woodland ravine is recognized as a valuable resource and therefore has many environmental protections (e.g. Significant Woodland designation under the City of St. Catharines Official Plan; regulation by NPCA). The City’s Urban Forestry Management Plan recognizes that the trees in ravines are a critically important part of the urban forest, providing extensive health, economical, and environmental benefits.
The Riverview ravine is not the same as it was many years ago. However, the parts of it that are still primarily unused retain more of an indigenous ecosystem than the parts that are heavily used. We need to respect the balance between unfrequented areas of nature and heavily travelled areas. Opening up new areas to exploitation can disturb the balance in ways that have proven to be destructive in other ravines. The situation is particularly serious with mountain bike trails because of the tendency for users to add unauthorized trails, which further degrade the ravine.
Recreational trails are very beneficial, but not in all areas. The sensitive ecosystem of a forested ravine can only accommodate a limited number of trails, and a limited number of people. Ravines are fragile and require conservation. Otherwise, opening up new trails may destroy the very thing that is attractive to recreational users (green space with large trees, other vegetation and wildlife). This type of loss is not easily reversed.
Building and using new trails results in a fundamental change to the local ecology . The building process removes important vegetation (including seedlings, which affects the next generation of tree saplings), disturbs and exposes more soil, increases the area with no groundcover, exposes tree roots, destroys valuable wildlife habitat, and changes waterflow. The negative effects of this on the Riverview ravine would include: loss of wildlife, reduced tree canopy, spread of invasive plants out-competing native plants, increased erosion from heavier rains (perhaps associated with climate change), increase in slope instability, unhealthy deposits into Twelve Mile Creek due to soil displacement and reduced filtering of storm water, and reduction in biodiversity
The Friends of 12 Mile Creek are committed to the long-term protection and health of the 12 Mile Creek valleylands. We are working hard to stop the construction of the racecourse and to have the area reinstated to its natural state.
The NPCA work permit issued to the Games on November 12, 2021 stipulates a requirement for post-game remediation of the trail system impacted by building the racecourse. At the November 19, 2021 Board meeting, the Board agreed to a motion, and subsequenlty sent a letter to the the Niagara Canada Summer Games (CSG) from the Board seeking a dialogue on the present trail and future condition of the site for the bike race course located at 12 Mile Creek. We will be pushing hard for this meeting.
We have informed the NPCA of our concerns about the permit, how it was issued, and we are continuing to challenge key parts of the permit application and approval, and the lack of due diligence by staff and comments made by NPCA Board members.
Cycling Canada is responsible for reviewing and approving the course with a focus on compliance with technical standards for such a national-level MTB event.
In a conference call with with concerned residents In July 2021, Games officials claimed that it was Cycling Canada who “had chosen” the new Twelve Mile Creek mountain bike racecourse among several options proposed. In their flyer to local residents in June, the Games also implied that Cycling Canada was consulted and involved with the decision to re-locate to 12 Mile Creek. This is not true. Steve Bauer personally confirmed this with Cycling Canada on several occassions. The racecourse was moved from Brock University lands to Twelve Mile Creek ravine on a decision made by the Canada Summer Games proposed by the Niagara Trail Maintenance
Bauer made phone calls and sent numerous emails to senior offiicals and Cycling Canada Board members, as early as September 2021 about this and questioning their support for a racecourse location where considerable environmental damage was being done for the sake of building a MTB bike course.
On November 1, 2021 we tried one last time to press our concerns and to try and make Cycling Canada understand their role in the destruction of 12 Mile Creek. Here is our last correspondence on this matter.
Very few people are aware of what is happening or have been informed. Access to the site is difficult as many of the paths are on steep slopes, wet ground and some sections are extremely slippery. But a few local residents, including Steve Bauer, have been following the work being done and periodically walking the trails being developed since August, 2021, and monitoring new areas being flagged for future construction.
We think it is important that more people become aware of what is happening and so on November 1, 2021 we mounted a video camera on a walking stick and followed Steve as he toured the trail system being developed for the racecourse.
Steve has biked this area for many years and is knowledgeable about the history of the bike paths on 12 MC. We used a software program that mapped where we walked. We followed the course paths, some of which had already cut and we followed other areas that were flagged for future planned work. See our narrated presentation taken at the time.
Consideraby more work has happened since that time, but the general area that was not part of the existing, established trail system has not. Click here to see how we illustrated this as part of our Nov. 1 presentation.
It began as a small group of local residents working together trying to respond to and understand the rationale for the location change for the mountain bike course for the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games. This change of location was to 12 Mile Creek, and much of our community backed onto where the new course was to be built. This learning process served as a catalyst to the importance of the 12 Mile Creek biodiversity and of helping to preserve the cultural and environmental integrity of the area. It prompted us to get actively involved and organized so as to ensure that the character and lifestyle of this unique natural setting would be protected and nurtured instead of being exploited and destroyed.
The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) is a community-based natural resource management agency that protects, enhances, and sustains healthy watersheds. A watershed is the land that drains into a particular watercourse such as a stream, river, lake. Gravity and the land’s topography (the high and low areas) move water, rain, and snowmelt across the landscape from one area to another.
The ravine area at 12 Mile Creek where the racecourse is being built is a watershed, and the NPCA has jurisidictional authority over it.
The NPCA is one of 36 Conservation Authorities in the Province of Ontario and manages 41 Conservation Areas within the Niagara Peninsula watershed held in public trust for recreation, heritage preservation, conservation, and education.
Steve Bauer is a local resident, and he is familiar with the 12 Mile Creek area and has hiked and biked it often. Biking has been his life, and he knows all of the trails across Niagara. When he returned home to Niagara, from the Tokyo Summer Olympics, he was shocked to learn about the change of location from Brock and as he asked questions, he got answers that were misleading and lies.
Steve became so upset with what he was witnessing and the lies he was being told, that he published a widely distributed document — An Open Letter From Steve Bauer.
He has since become an active member of the Friends of 12 Mile Creek.
We have several objections, please click on this link to go to one of our key sections of our website —- A Questionable Permit
OPG entered into an agreement with the Games and their partners as good community partners, but we believe that they were misinformed about what the actual plans were for the Games and for the Mayor after the Games. To understand OPG’s role and involvemen see What You Need to Know and OPG Advocacy Toolkit.
Our opposition and supporting statements are verifiable, but we need more concerned citizens to join us to stop the continued destruction of the 12 Mile Creek ravines.
As the NTMA encroaches on more new parts of the ravine and more trails are constructed, they are encouraging people to ride the new trail system. They are promoting its use on their various Facebook pages and other social media platforms. Anyone can use them, and they are not being monitored.
The reality is that this section of the 12 Mile Creek ravine has been handed over to them to continue to build as they see fit. The NPCA has issued a highly questionable permit for them to do so, and unless we continue to create awareness of what is happening, and fight back, the public can expect more environmental damage with a “slap on the wrist” by the NPCA if certain guidelines are not adhered to. Our opinion.
- a motion was passed at the Board meeting:
That a letter be sent to the Niagara Canada Summer Games (CSG) from the Board seeking a dialogue on the present trail and future condition of the site for the bike race course located at 12 Mile Creek. See the letter
- several months later now, the Games have not acknowledged nor responded to the letter from the NPCA Board
We were very disappointed with the November 19, 2021 Board meeting itself and the information that was provided by NPCA staff, especially regarding the issuance of a work permit, which we only found out about during the meeting.
Board Members, in general, did not appear to be prepared for our part of the meeting, even though video and briefing notes were shared with them in advance. As a consequence they did not seem to grasp what we were trying to emphasize, nor did some think our concerns were serious. To paraphrase one Board member’s comment: “I think it is a good thing to have more trails, as it gets people outside and active.”
Board members were then influenced by the NPCA staff person handling this file for NPCA, who provided all of the information on the call. The NPCA staff person’s introductory overview and subsequent reinforcement statements were basically an account of what we were told from Games officials and their partners for four months, while they constructed the racecourse; information that has proven not to be entirely truthful.
As the proponents who uncovered and reported to NPCA what was happening in 12 MC, and who have been consistently misled to by the Games officials and their partners, it was very disconcerting to hear that the basis for issuing a work permit at this time was based on information solely from conversations and site visits with these same individuals. We question what the NPCA were shown and what they were told during this time and on the site visits especially.
Our disappointment in the Board meeting was fundamentally tied to what we believe was the perception of undue influence to have a permit issued by NPCA so quickly, within a few weeks of their ruling of October 29, 2021, at which time, they confirmed that they were not aware of what had been happening for over four months, and that proper procedures had not been followed and that no permit was in place to authorize the construction.
As we pressed our case at the Board meeting, the Chair made a rather telling comment: “Not knowing about this until recently, we find ourselves with one hand tied behind our back in a way”. We see this as an honest comment, but also a revealing observation in that the NPCA and its Board may have felt pressure to provide the Games with what they needed to continue work on the racecourse. It should be emphasized here that since early October, we had been providing NPCA with evidence of what was happening in the 12 Mile Creek ravine, and constant correspondence with NPCA.
But the most telling moments from the Board meeting were tied to the NPCA staff person’s opening overview and closing remark that “If CSG (the Games) and OPG had submitted a permit application before the beginning of the works and provided the required information to our satisfaction staff would have supported that application as well”. What the ravine looked like in July, 2021 is nothing like what it looked like in November when NPCA walked the course, so they had no way to substantiate such a highly questionable statement.
At the conclusion of the meeting, one of the Board members used the NPCA’ staff person’s statement, as a response to our repeated objections to the permit on the call:
“the permit that is now issued has more rehabilitation in it would have probably would have because the people started early, so it’s a slap on the wrist for doing it early”
The NPCA should be protecting our environment and enforcing stricter guidelines.
We believe that the people involved in building this course are very aware and knowledgeable about what was required before such work should have started. They would have continued without any intervention if we had not followed the process of filing a complaint with NPCA.
Very few people are aware of what is happening. We are a small group of local residents who have witnessed this from the “front lines”, and we have learned how something like this can happen so quickly, “under everyone’s radar”. In sharing what we know, we are also putting out a “call to action” to the citizens of Niagara.