More fences, clearer sig­nage, but still they climb

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - MATTHEW VAN DONGEN Fines

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

JOHN RENNISON, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Two men climb around and over the barricade at the Bayfront Park end of the Wa­ter­front Trail on Satur­day.

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