NPCA Admits Mountain Bike Racecourse Permit Goes Against Their Own Policies
May 16, 2022
The Niagara Canada Summer Games racecourse was once again discussed at an NPCA Board Meeting on April 22, 2022. Correspondence from citizens and environmental groups concerned with the racing trails was acknowledged at this meeting.
There was a discussion of important NPCA policies restricting development on the slopes of valleylands. These policies are for protection of life and property, management of erosion, and conservation of land. Section 6.2.6 allows passive recreational use, such as trails, however, any new development (e.g., structures, site grading) must not be on the slopes. It must be set back from the top of slope or toe of slope.
NPCA Policy identifies The Twelve Mile Creek as having erosion issues involving “damaging and dangerous situations” of slope instability and failure. The Riverview Blvd. ravine has a history of these. An ecologist, Dr. Douglas Larson has confirmed with us that these slopes are extremely unstable and that the ravine soils here are prone to slippage because of their composition and high-water content. His assessment was direct and the candidness of his comments refreshing.
NPCA Staff have confirmed that Section 6.2.6 of its policy is applicable to the racecourse ravine and required the Games to comply with some subsections. They also confirmed that the Games racecourse is not set back as policy requires. However, they allowed this because the course involved “existing trails” and “minor improvements”. These descriptions do not match the facts, and the policy does not contain exceptions for “minor”. All sections should have been applied. A Board Member pointed out that the Permit for the racecourse contains a map from the Games showing approximately 25 new structures and 10 new trail sections.
The racecourse trails are not only new in location, but new in type. They are racing tracks, built by deep bench-cutting soil, digging tree roots, removing saplings and groundcover, creating large soil berms and rock gardens, all within a kilometres-long loop carving twice through the entire ravine. They result in environmental damage both on the track and in a wide swath to each side. Racing event use will cause much further damage. The structures are not minor but include high ramps, and some trail areas have dangerous routing near streets.
The cumulative effect of the extensive racecourse development, and the planned new use of trails for high intensity racing, are not minor and not passive. The structures should be removed, and the slopes of the ravine restored to their natural state.
A recent social media posting, on a prominent Niagara environmental group site, referred to the Auditor General’s 2018 rebuke of inadequate policies and procedures at NPCA. This posting described the continuation of permissive policies. It called for the NPCA Board to set strong environmental polices that are enforced, as other Conservation Authorities have done. We second this call to action.
In addition to our dialogue with NPCA we are continuing our efforts to obtain answers to the questions we asked of the City of St. Catharines. We believe that the racecourse does not meet the requirements of the City ‘s Official Plan. We have been told that a new Recreational Trail Use Master Agreement between the City and OPG is in process for Twelve Mile Creek lands, including the area of the racecourse, and that it will be presented to City Council very soon. We are working with an ever-expanding audience of elected officials, environmental groups, and citizens across Niagara to stop the continued destruction of the 12 Mile Creek ravines and work with all parities to restore this area immediately after the Games have concluded.