POSITION PAPER - City of Edmonton River Valley Planning Modernization Project (Ribbon of Green)
Responses are added as they are received below the paper
What is happening?
The City of Edmonton (CoE) is currently undertaking a project to modernize the River Valley Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP) which was adopted in 1985, and to adopt a new, comprehensive, Ribbon of Green (RoG) plan for the City’s North Saskatchewan river valley and ravine system, building upon the SW+NE Ribbon of Green Plan that was adopted by City Council last year, in replacement of the original Ribbon of Green Concept Plan from 1990/1992.
What are EMBA's Concerns
1) Mountain Biking will be prohibited in Preservation Areas
Because of the pandemic, the final version of the SW+NE RoG Plan document
(which is being built upon for the comprehensive RoG plan) did not go through the final public consultation process that plans of this significance require.
There are three classifications of the river valley planning area set out in the SW+NE Ribbon of Green plan: Preservation, Conservation and Active/Working Landscapes. The latter classification is used for industrial, commercial and residential areas of the river valley and developed parks, golf courses and other recreational amenities. The other two classifications are summarized in the SW+NE RoG as follows:
Preservation: Highest level of ecological protection
Conservation: Trail based recreation; Natural Recreation
Most of the natural trail system is located within areas presently designated as Preservation. The SW+NE RoG states (at pages 68 and 69) that in Preservation areas:
“recreational opportunities are limited to foot-based travel along non-paved trails
in appropriate locations (as determined through an environmental review)”
and that the criteria for determining Compatible Uses of these areas include that:
“The potential use does not require equipment or specialized gear (e.g. bicycles
The result of this, of course, is that the SW+NE RoG proposes to exclude mountain bikes from all the singletrack, natural, trails in Preservation areas (unless designated as a Conservation trail) and limit traffic on these trails to foot based traffic, only. Trail runners will have their access limited by a prohibition against use of these trails for races and organized runs (using flagging or other markers).
2) The Natural Trail system is not recognized as a City asset
Presently, none of the natural trails in the North Saskatchewan river valley and ravine system are recognized as City of Edmonton assets. This means that: there is no recognition of the extensive nature of the trail system (as of September 21, 2021 https://www.trailforks.com/region/edmonton/stats lists 987 trails, being 652.3 km in total length, in the region, of which only 160 km are recognized by the City as maintained multi-use trails); there is no signage on the natural surface trails, providing wayfinding to users and advising as to the level of difficulty of the terrain or natural or installed features; the City takes no responsibility for maintenance or trail development; and the City of Edmonton is not consistent in its internal approach to the promotion of these trails as contributing to Edmontonians’ quality of life and as an amenity to be enjoyed by visitors.
EMBA is seeking support for the following recommendations
1. With limited exceptions for high traffic areas, the existing network of singletrack, natural surface, trails contained within “Preservation” areas should be designated in the Ribbon of Green plan as “Conservation” trails, open to cyclists
EMBA promotes responsible trail use and etiquette. We believe the system of natural trails should be open for the shared use and enjoyment of cyclists, trail runners, hikers and nature lovers, alike.
Starting with a review of the “Trail Science” page on the website of IMBA (International Mountain Bike Alliance) Canada (https://imbacanada.com/trail-science/ ), EMBA has surveyed the academic literature, which is consistent in the finding that cycling is essentially no more harmful than foot based traffic on natural surface trails, so long as the trails are properly constructed and maintained (a well researched recent example: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346453660_Effects_of_mountain_biking_versus_hiking_on_trails_under_different_environmental_conditions ).
Therefore, as noted in the conclusion of Natural Resource Impacts of Mountain Biking: A summary of scientific studies that compare mountain biking to other forms of trail travel, by Gary Sprung, referenced on the IMBA Canada “Trail Science” webpage, the decision to exclude cyclists from natural trails that are open to foot based use is a political rather than science based decision.
2. The Ribbon of Green Plan needs to include a Mountain Bike Strategy, encompassing the Natural Trail System
The strategy should leverage the extensive system of singletrack, natural, trails to promote Edmonton’s quality of life and postion as an urban destination for mountain bike tourism and events.
The trail system should also be properly marked with signage (using the familiar green circle to black diamond icons utilized by ski hills) for wayfinding and user information, and the City’s risk mitigation.
Finally, the City of Edmonton needs to make a commitment to maintenance and appropriate trail development. Presently, all of the maintenance falls to volunteers operating under EMBA’s written Trail Maintenance Agreement with the City of Edmonton. EMBA is the only organization conducting authorized maintenance on the City of Edmonton’s natural trails.
This Position Paper is being forwarded to all candidates for the Mayoralty and City Council in the Edmonton civic election to be held Monday October 18, 2021.
EMBA will publish any responses it receives from candidates by Friday October 15 on its website and Facebook page:
If you have an opinion on this Position Paper, we urge you to write to or speak to the candidates in your Ward about the Ribbon of Green Plan and the North Saskatchewan river valley and ravine system.