NCC Greenbelt Review and Mountain Biking: Part Three

This is the third part of a series of blog postings on the National Capital Commission's Greenbelt Master Plan Review as it relates to mountain biking. The last posting will be my personal submission on Mountain Biking in the National Capital Greenbelt.

This link will take you directly to the Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan.

Managing Recreation and Mountain Biking

In this post we will look at the NCC document entitled Managing Recreation as well as other information on their web site relating to NCC policies on trails, cycling and mountain biking.

The document Managing Recreation states:

Over 100 kilometres of trails have been developed for recreational use in the Greenbelt (skiing, snowshoeing, hiking and birdwatching), and the Greenbelt Pathway is under development with links to the recreational pathway system (in the Capital region), the Rideau Trail (Ottawa to Kingston) and the Trans Canada Trail (across Canada). A number of recreational facilities such as campgrounds, riding schools, municipal sports fields, golf courses and two leash-free areas for dog walking can also be found in the Greenbelt.

The Greenbelt Pathway

The Greenbelt Pathway is planned to be a continuous 56-kilometre recreational pathway that will provide a unique experience from Shirley’s Bay in the west to Green’s Creek in the east.

Its objectives are:

- to connect key visitor attractions and link with other pathways in Canada’s Capital Region
- to provide a unique rural experience along the Capital’s integrated Recreational Pathway Network
My understanding is that cycling is only officially allowed on the “recreational pathways” and not the “trails”. We will examine the document Biking Country to try and find a clear statement of that policy.

The document The Capital Pathway states:
Canada’s Capital Region is home to one of North America’s largest networks of cycling pathways — the Capital Pathway network. More than 170 kilometres of recreational pathways link superb natural areas, parks, gardens, museums and attractions. The paths are great for cycling and many other activities such as walking, jogging and in-line skating. Come and fill up on fresh air!
The Map of the Capital Pathway makes it clear that this only includes paved and hard packed surface pathways and not the natural trails in the Greenbelt.

The chart of recommended activities on the NCC Greenbelt Map indicates that “biking” is only recommended on the “pathways” and on none of the “trails”.

Nothing in the review documents that I have seen indicates that these specific policies are under review, but everything I have seen in the documentation so far has been very general.

The only reference on the NCC website to mountain biking seems to be the section on Mountain Biking in Gatineau Park.

So the clearest statement of current policy we seem to have is the email that we received from an NCC representative dated May 12, 2006:
We know that there is a lot of interest in off-road riding on Greenbelt hiking trails. On the other hand, section (16) of the NCC Traffic & Property Regulations states..."No person shall ride a bicycle on property of the Commission other than a driveway or on a bicycle path set aside by the Commission for the purpose...". While we have not actively tried to enforce this particular regulation, we do not condone the practice. There are long-term impacts on the trails and surrounding area, particularly rutting, trail erosion, trail widening as users veer off the designated route to avoid ruts and muddy surface, and destruction of adjacent vegetation. In the winter, we want to discourage bike riders who may travel across groomed ski tracks.
I will be watching for further information on the Greenbelt Master Plan Review to be posted on the NCC web site and for notices of public meetings and will report them on my blog. I will now begin drafting my personal submission on Mountain Biking on the Greenbelt Trails.

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