This chronology of events is based on extensive conversations, emails and documents obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests.
- in March, 2017 Niagara won the bid to host the Canada Summer Games (CSG); Steve Bauer, Olympic/Tour cyclist, worked on the bid for cycling and the mountain bike course
- the course would be created on extensive, existing trails in and around Brock University lands where there was suitable sport infrastructure, parking and potential legacy; the terrain and existing trails of Brock University lands were the ideal location for the mountain bike course and competition
- 2.5 years pass without much planning (huge gap), and in June 2019, Bauer and Josee Larocque, Cycling Canada, Games officials, Brock U reps and others reviewed and walked the course and confirmed the route and plans. This interaction continued until November of 2019
- in November of 2019, the Games and the Brock teams met onsite and walked the proposed areas. During this visit, significant concerns were raised about the course regarding Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC) regulations, that may alter the course design options
- following the site visit, Brock asked the NEC, informally, if a permit might be required for the proposed temporary course and received one short email citing one of their regulations
- in December, 2019 all communication and/or planning between Brock and the Games ceased abruptly. According to one Brock official, as stated in an email obtained via FOI: “ I don`t recall why the Host Society (Games) “dropped” the plan of having the course here on Brock lands other than the fact that they were worried about NEC slowing things down. To me the original plan seemed quite doable compared to this new location” (12 Mile Creek)
- in January, 2021 discussions between the City of St. Catharines and OPG regarding 12 Mile Creek are formalized; see letter from Deputy CAO, St. Catharines to OPG
- in late June, 2021 CSG mailed an unaddressed flyer to local residents advising the community about work to be done in their residential neighbourhood. We initiated two Zoom calls where we received few answers and as we have now discovered information was misleading and/or and not truthful.: during this time construction work had already started
- in the CSG flyer the Chair, Host Society for the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games stated that the work would be “upgrades of safety and other minor improvements to the trail system”
- in the month of August we canvassed the residents in the local community (along Riverview Blvd., Lockhart) and other nearby streets, distributing a Neighbourhood Flyer we produced, and while doing this it became clear that only a few of the residents knew anything about the racecourse proposal, and less even remembered ever receiving the CSG flyer
- our awareness efforts prompted several local residents to write to Games officials and their partners, local politicians and senior City staff.
- throughout August we witnessed numerous groups of volunteer trail workers, most weekends and some weekdays, removing numerous saplings and seedlings, digging out and cutting somde trees, removing and trampling groundcover and plants, displacing large amounts of soil and many rocks for new trails, creating large soil berms, cutting tree roots, digging deep holes in the earth to pour concrete for large ramps, all the while creating and flagging new trails on the slopes and close to resident backyards
- on September 1, 2021 we walked the area where the planned course was being built with representatives from the Games and their contractor, the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association (NTMA), and we discovered significant new trail development and planning on the upper slopes, where there were no paths, just dense bush and vegetation; this prompted us to ask more questions to Games officials, and we received answers that did not seem correct
- we were told repeatedly by Games officials that OPG had done a comprehensive environmental assessment for the racecourse area; and on the site visit in September this same senior Games official told us that NPCA had approved the new trails
- we initiated correspondence with the Ontario Power Generation who own the land, as well as the Mayor of St. Catharines, our Ward Councillors and Brock University officials, to question what we had seen and what we were witnessing with respect to the construction work being done (existing trails versus new trail development) and did the Games inform the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority about the project, did they have a permit, and was there an environmental impact study done; as we were told by Games officials
- Ontario Power Generation stated in response to our community concerns that “the Games are permitted to make improvements to existing trails to improve safety for cyclists and recreational users.” An environmental analysis or “Environmental Assessment” has not been completed by OPG specific to this area of Twelve Mile Creek
- correspondence from the office of the Mayor of St. Catharines — The trail is being upgraded to ensure the safety of the cyclists who will be using it. There is no new construction and to our knowledge, an environmental assessment was not required by the OPG or the NPCA”
- on September 21, 2021 we sent a letter to OPG citing more concerns and requesting that they ask the Games to stop development of the course as it is not just updgrades to existing trails and that there was no environmental impact analysis — they responded on Septmeber 29th : OPG is satisfied that the Games, as Licensee of its lands in 12 Mile Creek, has met its obligations pursuant to the terms of its Licence Agreement with OPG, including collaboration with the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority to ensure the activity on the land is appropriately managed and approved under applicable regulation
- on October 5, 2021 Steve Bauer posted an Open Letter to the community at large in Niagara
- a local resident whose property backs on to the 12 Mile Creek ravine submitted a formal complaint about the work being done and on October 20, 2021, another local resident walked the entire existing course (at the time) with an NPCA Regulations Officer as part of the formal investigation
- on October 29, 2021 we received written confirmation from NPCA that until the formal complaint was submitted, NPCA had no knowledge about the work being done, nor was there a permit request or authorization for one, and that work was to cease until further investigation could take place
Fact: The new course consists of totally brand-new trails being constructed in a fragile ecosystem, on already erosion prone ravine slopes, adjacent to residential property lines. Forest, natural vegetation, creeks, valleys, wetlands, steep hills, ridges, and wildlife habitats are being cut, removed, excavated, dug, disrupted, and permanently altered. No environmental impact assessment or analysis had been done. The NPCA did not know about the building of a racecourse in the 12 Mile Creek ravines, and as such OPG’s statement that it had collaborated with NPCA was not correct, because they believed what they were told by the Games that NPCA approvals were in place.
So for four months, the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association (a local mountain bike group) had full authority from the Games as contractors, to build the new racecourse and playground trails , without any oversight of environmental authorities, nor the City of St. Catharines, Ontario Power Generation (land owner) and the cycling stakeholders: Cycling Canada and Ontario Cycling Association; and according to an email from one of our Ward councillors this same mountain bike group will look after the racecourse and playground trails afterwards
- as the NTMA aggressively flagged more areas on the upper slopes and cut new paths in all directions, we decided to walk the course on November 1, 2021 with a photographer and using GPS software we captured what was the current state of the construction on the racecourse mapping what we could with an emphasis on showing what were existing trails and what were entirely new trails, as the Games started to deliberately misrepresent the truth; as we would later see in their permit application. See our narrated presentation.
- following our complaint, NPCA staff attended site visits with Games officials and the Niagara Trails Maintenance Association (NMTA); however, what we learned later was that on one site visit there were 2 NPCA staff and as many as 14 other individuals including the Mayor of St. Catharines, the Chair of the Host Society for the Games, and numerous representatives from OPG and other Games staff. We were told that this is not the normal process to allow NPCA to conduct an investigation without undue influence. Moreover, no invitation was extended to members of the local community, who had been interacting with the NPCA, the Games, OPG, and the Mayor’s office, and were known to all
- only a few weeks later, on November 12, 2021 NPCA approved a work permit application to allow the Games and the NTMA to continue construction on the racecourse
- on November 19, 2019 we made a 5 minute presentation to the Board of Directors for the NPCA, who were informed for the first time about what was happening at 12 Mile Creek; NPCA staff made a presentation as well and there was considerable discussion regarding what had happened and details regarding the permit, best summed up by the Chair when he stated: “Not knowing about this until recently, we find ourselves with one hand tied behind our back in a way”.
- 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
- we were extremely unhappy with what had occured at the NPCA Board meeting and the information that was shared with us by staff and the dismissive nature of some of the Board members; we sent a detailed letter to the CAO of the NPCA, outlining our dismay and objections to what we had heard at the Board meeting and the information that was shared about the issuance of the work permit. Read the letter. Note: we received no responses to this letter.
- in December the NPCA kindly provided us with a copy of the work permit that was issued by the NPCA on November 12, 2021
- in mid-January, 2022 the NPCA fulfilled our Freedom of Information request and amongst the documents we received were details for the permit application submitted by the Games; we found these materials extremely interesting and share them and our comments in a dedicated section on this site A Questionable Permit
The Games and the Mayor have stated that they had to relocate the site for the mountain bike course because Brock said no and that the NEC would not allow it. Jeff Burch MPP has been instrumental in helping us get further information on this matter. 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.
based on our understanding and confirmations received, the final decision to relocate the mountain bike competition to 12 Mile Creek was made by senior officials with the Games
- on February 28, 2022 we filed an official Letter of Correspondence with the City of St. Catharines to inform Council about what was happening, to raise our concerns and to ask specific questions about the Mayor’s involvement and commitments by the City
- our Letter of Correspondence was added to the Correspondence Report (in Consent) at the March 28th City of St. Catharines council meeting, discussed briefly and referred to city staff for a report in response to our main questions