October 5, 2021
To the community at large, across Niagara
Cycling is my life. I enjoy mountain bike riding. I enjoy mountain bike trail riding on Twelve Mile Creek on existing trails. However, I cannot accept what the cost will be to the Twelve Mile Creek environment to obtain a new racecourse and expand the trails through a specific area of previously undeveloped ravine, which is currently undergoing serious trail development. I cannot accept that this new racecourse for the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games (CSG) is OK. It is not ok.
As a lifelong cyclist, I am opposed. I am opposed because I now intimately understand what has happened and the need to highlight that there are acceptable alternatives to the CSG mountain bike racecourse that will allow the athletes to compete on a challenging elite course, without destroying the surrounding environment. I believe that the Canada Summer Games and Ontario Power Generation are blatantly ignoring the environmental cost of what they believe is acceptable to the Niagara community at large.
I was personally involved in the early strategy for the Niagara Region’s bid to host the 2022 Canada Summer Games. My partner and I were asked if we could help in structuring the cycling component for the bid. We developed templates and routing for each of the cycling disciplines to be hosted by the Games; Road, Time Trial, Criterium and Mountain Bike racecourses.
We devised a mountain bike course on existing trails on Brock University lands which would be logically proximate to the CSG park where suitable sport infrastructure, parking and potential legacy importance for cycling for life was all part and parcel of an integrated plan. The terrain and existing trails of Brock University lands were the ideal location for the mountain bike racecourse. We worked with the Canada Summer Games Host Society and had several meetings with the Chair of the Canada Summer Games Host Society and other CSG representatives. We attended a formal meeting at Brock University during the first review of the bid and in support of the games. The Niagara bid was successful.
Three years passed and in June of 2019 Cycling Canada came for a site visit and agreed the template route was a good foundation for the mountain bike racecourse. Cycling Canada suggested that an expert trail builder from Hardwood Hills MTB facility consult on the course. At some point (timing not known) the Hardwood Hills representative reviewed the Brock lands course template with the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association (NTMA).
In July of 2019, we regrettably announced to the CSG Host Society that we would no longer continue the volunteer work for the games and wished everyone at CSG the best for the future.
In August of 2021, it came to my attention that the mountain bike racecourse was being moved to a new location – the watershed of the Twelve Mile Creek area on Ontario Power Generation lands. I was extremely surprised and wondered why? The racecourse plan was to cut a loop racecourse out and back from Lockhart Drive by creating two brand new trails across an undeveloped steep ravine. No public trails existed over the majority of this new racecourse plan.
The residents of the adjacent community began to become aware only after construction development began. An unaddressed letter was mailed from CSG signed by the chair of the board, Doug Hamilton. This letter was minimally distributed as most residents proximate to the new racecourse did not receive the information.
A small community group initiated and organized Zoom calls with CSG representatives of which I attended the second call. On the call I attended, the main CSG representative was not able to answer many concerning questions. This person suggested to organize another call with additional representatives of the CSG, Ontario Power Generation and the City of St. Catharines. On this call with the stakeholders, the community questions were still not answered sufficiently. Subsequently on August 31, a public walkthrough on the planned site of the new racecourse was organized. All community in attendance of the walkthrough were shocked at the extent of the new racecourse development and what future impact would occur. Some words expressed internally were “disgust” at the work being done. In addition, at this time, the majority of the planned course was only a series of flags routed through pristine ravine. The only existing trails were created by wildlife, and not used by hikers or cyclists.
Since that time, substantial investigation work has been done by the community at large to uncover the discrepancies and misleading information provided by the Canada Summer Games leadership versus the actual fact of what is happening currently in the development of a completely new racecourse for the CSG mountain bike event next summer.
Summary of Major Concerns
- The Canada Summer Games stated in a conference call that I attended with concerned residents that Cycling Canada “had chosen” the new Twelve Mile Creek mountain bike racecourse among several options proposed. This is not true. I have 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 the Niagara Trail Maintenance
- Recent contact communication with Brock University discovered that they were not opposed to host the Mountain bike racecourse on their lands. We were told that the racecourse “just went away” and Brock University is not privy to the decision
- Canada Summer Games minimally distributed a letter (dated June 16) signed by the Chair of the Host Society, to some residents with regards to the newly appointed Twelve Mile creek racecourse. Most residents proximate in the community received no notice. This letter stated that the Games would be making upgrades consisting of “safety and other minor improvements to the trail system”. This is 100% misleading. A completely new “out and back “trail is being cut into the ravine slope through untouched, pristine greenbelt area. This is potentially one of the last natural and undisturbed greenbelt areas of St. Catharines. In addition, existing trails are also being expanded and developed unabated with no oversight by any association, group or authority to oversee the actual daily work currently ongoing by the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association to build a new racecourse. NTMA is building whatever they want!
- Further, The Canada Summer Games letter of June 16 states that CSG is working with Cycling Canada and Ontario Cycling Association. This is misleading and basically blue smoke to give impact and clout to their letter and give right to their cause in developing and building a brand-new mountain bike racecourse. Cycling Canada have not returned to Niagara since June of 2019, and the OCA is not involved at all. Cycling Canada approves the technical aspects and final approval of the racecourse however have never stepped foot in the ravine in Twelve Mile Creek.
- In June of 2019 at the suggestion of Cycling Canada, Hardwood hills expert trail builder was asked to consult on the mountain bike course by the CSG Host Society and or Cycling Canada. The Hardwood expert did attend to review the original racecourse at Brock University that was part of the CSG bid. (timing unknown) However, this expert has not returned to Niagara to review and consult on site since the racecourse changed location. This is fact. I have personally confirmed this with the representatives of all organizations and people cited above.
- To emphasize, there is no current oversight of the CSG mountain bike racecourse development by Cycling Canada, Ontario Cycling association or the proposed expert mountain bike trail developer originally involved.
- Ontario Power Generation has responded to residents’ concerns, stating that they gave license to the Canada Summer Games for the use of their land, and the Games are permitted to “make improvements to existing trails to improve safety for cyclists and recreational users”. This is NOT what is happening currently as the contractor, the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association, is excavating, cutting vegetation, building bridges, destroying natures habitat to fulfill a completely new mountain bike racecourse track through a pristine, untouched greenbelt ravine in the Twelve Mile creek watershed which is subject to erosion.
I Ask Seriously, How Can This be OK?
Why is this happening when there are viable alternatives to the Canada Summer Games mountain bike racecourse? Why destruct and destroy natural vegetation, excavate ravine slopes, build bridges in a pristine greenbelt area where wildlife currently flourishes?
We already have established existing mountain bike trails that are suitable for the Canada Summer Games racecourse. There are acceptable alternative locations for the mountain bike racecourse for CSG, however the decision of the Canada Summer Games is destroying this last area of pristine greenbelt in St. Catharines, a sensitive ravine setting. The build of the racecourse is very sadly happening right now, unabated, without oversight or concerns by any authority!
The ravine slope currently undergoing development will never be the same.
Existing trails and Brock lands can be utilized, and based on what we have been told, Brock University is not opposed. If inevitably, Brock University trails are deemed not suitable, then there are multiple alternative locations in Niagara to host this racecourse and provide legacy to its development. This is the most important point.
The long-term effects and expanded use in Twelve Mile creek watershed will further deteriorate the environment and displace the wildlife that currently enjoys cover in this ravine greenbelt in areas where no public trails existed… until one month ago!!
I kindly ask the greater community’s attention in this matter and ask that everyone sign an online petition that has been established to protest against the location of the 2022 Canada Summer Games mountain bike racecourse.
There are alternative locations.
While I write this letter, the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games and the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association continue to butcher an untouched ravine…
Please act now. We want to hear your voice!
Sign the petition today! https://chng.it/kmkfpV95Jy
To read Steve’s complete letter click here