Water­front trail re­mains un­us­able

‘Un­safe sec­tions’ leave city un­sure about when – or if – pop­u­lar path will re­open this sum­mer

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE -

UN­CER­TAINTY over the ex­tent of flood dam­age to Hamilton’s water­front trail means there is no guar­an­tee the pop­u­lar path will re­open this sum­mer.

The mys­tery time­line has up­set users of one of the city’s most pop­u­lar trails and forced the re­lo­ca­tion of cy­cling and run­ning sched­uled as far ahead as Septem­ber.

Record spring water lev­els flooded large swaths of the trail in April, prompt­ing the city to fence off the paved path be­tween Princess Point and Bayfront Park.

Water lev­els have since re­ceded — prompt­ing pointed ques­tions from res­i­dents as well as tres­pass­ing — but not enough for the city to as­sess dam­age to the trail caused by flood­ing and pound­ing waves.

“We know peo­ple are im­pa­tient, we are get­ting all those ques­tions. We hope to have the an­swers soon,” said parks man­ager Kara Bunn, who is wait­ing on a fi­nal as­sess­ment and rec­om­men­da­tions from con­sul­tant Shore­plan En­gi­neer­ing. “But we know for sure some sec­tions are un­safe.”

The Spec­ta­tor pad­dled along­side and, at one point, over top the trail Tues­day to eye­ball the dam­age.

The only re­main­ing drowned sec­tion of paved trail in­cludes sev­eral me­tres curv­ing around Cootes Par­adise and across from Princess Point.

But as­phalt is clearly crum­bling into Hamilton Har­bour at sev­eral lo­ca­tions be­tween the mouth of the Des­jardins Canal and the tem­po­rary gate near Bayfront Park. In a few spots, the water has clearly un­der­mined the path, de­spite tem­po­rary can­vas bar­ri­ers and sand­bags vis­i­ble along the shore­line.

That hasn’t stopped peo­ple from hop­ping the fence at ei­ther end of the trail — or cut­ting holes in the gate, an op­tion clearly on dis­play at Princess Point Tues­day.

At least 70 peo­ple were recorded pass­ing an au­to­matic counter along a closed sec­tion of trail near Bayfront Park on a re­cent Sun­day evening, for ex­am­ple.

Reg­u­lar trail cy­clist Randy Kay said he would feel less frus­trated about the clo­sure if the city would pro­vide progress up­dates or time­lines.

“There’s been very lit­tle com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which is pretty sur­pris­ing given how much use this trail gets,” he said.

The city’s own web­site sug­gests the sec­tion of trail from Princess Point through the Des­jardins canal sees about 6,670 trips in a “peak week,” for ex­am­ple.

“Whether you look at it from a com­muter stand­point or a recre­ational stand­point, it is just such an im­por­tant part of our (cy­cling) in­fra­struc­ture,” he said.

The city be­lieves it will cost more than $1 mil­lion to fix the trail, but isn’t other­wise ready to pub­licly guess at spe­cific re­pair costs or time­lines.

But the or­ga­nizer of up­com­ing MEC cy­cling and run­ning races slated for two week­ends in late Septem­ber has been forced to reroute sev­eral hun­dred ath­letes away from the water­front trail.

“It’s a shame, be­cause it’s such a beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion. Peo­ple look for­ward to it,” said co-or­di­na­tor Ryan Brown, who had to re­lo­cate the Bayfront Breezer run­ning race to the Dun­das Val­ley and reroute cy­clists on the Cen­tury Ride through Hamilton onto par­al­lel streets near the water.

“But re­ally, it’s just as tough for all ac­tive Hamil­to­ni­ans, be­cause this trail is such a hub of ac­tiv­ity.”

Kay said he’d love for the city to con­sider open­ing the trail in in­stal­ments, or with tem­po­rary safety fenc­ing around dam­aged ar­eas, rather than wait­ing for a per­ma­nent fix.

The city is look­ing at that op­tion, but there are no guar­an­tees, Bunn said.

She said the con­sul­tant will pro­vide draw­ings of pos­si­ble per­ma­nent or tem­po­rary so­lu­tions depend­ing on the ex­tent of the dam­age. It’s taken a long time to eval­u­ate the flood and wave-pound­ing ero­sion be­cause the water lev­els re­main high.

“It’s a wide path, but it’s also one that is used at a fairly high speed,” she said, point­ing to cy­clists and in-line skaters who travel in both di­rec­tions. “We need to know what we have room to do safely.”

MATTHEW VAN DONGEN

PHO­TOS BY BARRY GRAY, THE HAMILTON SPEC­TA­TOR

A large sec­tion of the water­front trail be­tween the carp bar­rier and Princess Point is flooded and re­mains closed. But that hasn’t stopped antsy users, in­clud­ing 70 caught by an au­to­matic counter tres­pass­ing on a re­cent Sun­day.

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