More fences, clearer signage, but still they climb
Turns out the city is fencing with rogue rail-hoppers at popular natural areas other than Albion Falls.
Record-high Lake Ontario water levels prompted the city to close a popular section of the waterfront trail between Princess Point and Bayfront Park as far back as May. The water is receding, but the trail remains closed while an erosion expert studies whether portions of the paved path are dangerously undermined.
That hasn’t stopped dedicated trail users from ignoring the signs and hopping a series of ever-growing barriers to test path safety for themselves.
“We know residents really love their trail,” said parks manager Kara Bunn. “But we wouldn’t put up the fence if we didn’t think there was a risk.”
Anecdotally, it’s easy to see residents disagree with that risk assessment — both near the water and at the latest magnet for municipal risk management, Albion Falls.
Dozens of determined waterfall visitors ignored signs warn-
ing of $10,000 fines and squeezed around newly erected fencing designed to dissuade them from hiking the steep gorge to the base of the east Mountain falls Saturday.
Along the harbour trail, the city started with simple low barriers and signs but graduated to gates and two-metre-high fences that are harder to hop.
Still, a pair of men climbed into a Spectator photo of the barrier gate blocking the waterfront trail in Bayfront Park without hesitation Saturday.
“Not closed to me,” remarked one cheerfully.
Now that the water has receded from the path, the city can even quantify the level of disdain trail lovers have for the protective barriers. An automatic traffic counter that is now back in action recorded at least 70 people passing beyond the gate last Sunday evening alone, Bunn said.
Other recent fencing fails include the Wentworth Stairs, which were briefly closed early this month due to planned construction on the nearby Sherman Access. Dedicated users treated the blocking barriers as just another part of the climb.
In fairness, the city has been criticized in the past for ruining outdoor fun with overly cautious risk management decisions.
Council only recently ended two infamous city-wide bans on tobogganing on municipal hills and playing road hockey on side streets.
City lawyers supported both bans in the name of cutting legal liability — a concern that came into focus after the city lost a $900,000 lawsuit over a sledding injury at a municipal reservoir.
No one has died wandering the eroded waterfront trail that rings the western harbour.
But the same can’t be said of Albion Falls, where several hikers have fallen or become stuck this year — including a photographer who plunged to his death in June. The city also faces two ongoing legal claims related to injuries at Albion Falls.
Bunn said the timing of the reopening of the waterfront trail largely depends on the findings on the erosion expert.
There are long-term hopes to build a safe stair or path to the base of Albion Falls, too. But such work — if the necessary cash is found — is likely a year or more away, Bunn said.
We wouldn’t put up the fence if we didn’t think there was a risk. KARA BUNN CITY PARKS MANAGER
Two men climb around and over the barricade at the Bayfront Park end of the Waterfront Trail on Saturday.