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Unauthorized trail building damages trees - Greenways

Soil compaction and root damage can cause trees to fall in high winds

Unauthorized trails lead to environmental degredation, Greenways Land Trust would like to remind people.

The group recently became aware of a set of unauthorized bike jumps built in the Willow Creek Conservation Area near the Martin Road entrance. Willow Creek is managed through a partnership with Greenways and the Nature Trust. A large number of trees have fallen in the area, the group noted, and they point at compaction and soil distrubance associated with the jumps as one of the main causes.

“They have been doing lots of excavating big holes to dig up soil and making jumps out of that. There’s a large cleared area with trampled vegetation, so there’s nothing growing,” said Camille Andrews, Habitat Management Coordinator for Greenways. “It’s very silty and loose soil, so we’re worried about erosion and things like that. We’ve also noticed in the recent wind events that it seemed to have significant failures compared to the surrounding forest. We’re worried about that from a safety perspective and from an ecological perspective.”

After the early winter windfalls, Greenways has also seen residents coming into the area to cut fallen trees with chainsaws, creating more unauthorized trails on hills and using fallen debris to build forts.

“There are quite a few trees down and they’re quite large,” she said. “We saw the trees down and thought that it would sort of close this area and help us revitalize it. We’ve got plans to go in there anyway this year to do some planting and try to lessen the encroachment and help the riparian area a bit.”

“Then we noticed that it was all cut.”

Andrews also said that due the proximity to the salmon-bearing creek in the park, the trails have caused some concern.

Greenways and Nature Trust manage the area by removing invasive plants as well as working with streamkeepers and other volunteers. They are in the planning process for a number of improvements in the area for 2021, including trail maintenance, invasive plant removal, replanting damaged areas and removing unsafe trails and infrastructure.

“Unauthorized trails are just put in by park users. They haven’t gone through any sort of assessment or permission from the property owner,” she said. “There actually are staff that come through and assess the best routes for trails so they have the least impact and can avoid hazardous areas. When it’s an unauthorized trail, it’s not taking into account all those safety and ecological mitigation measures.”

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