|Protesters against paving Hillside trails, ironically standing on a spot where they've already been paved for a decade. (photo credit: James Jackson)|
I recently read about protests against plans to pave the trail surface in Hillside Park, and I am disappointed. While the residents of Ferndale Place raise a legitimate concern about how city staff notified people about upcoming work, the complaints that a few unhappy citizens are bringing forward just don't make sense.
One complaint is that upgrading the trail surface will ruin this park as a natural gem. As a daily user of the park, I can attest that the park is a beautiful natural oasis, but less than two years ago it was a muddy construction zone filled with heavy earth moving equipment. If the park can survive a sewer replacement, it can withstand a paved trail.
|Sewer reconstruction in Hillside Park: where were protesters then?|
Furthermore, worries about "environmental damage" completely ignore the current reality. I saw gravel trails washed out by stormwater three times in 2014 alone, and countless times before. After each incident, heavy vehicles truck in tons of new stone and sand to repair dangerous washouts that are sometimes a foot deep. With each new storm, this material is spread into meadows and silts up the creek. A hard trail surface will permanently solve this problem and prevent injuries.
|Storm runoff gouged this gravel trail down to the foundation layer in 2014.|
What is lost in these protesters' message is how Hillside Park's degraded, loose gravel trails make it inaccessible to many in our community. Paving the trails will improve accessibility for all: in wheelchair or mobility scooter, with stroller, as well as on bike or on foot. Virtually every other city park provides paved trails without diminishing the natural environment, including Forwell Creek Park which directly connects to Hillside, so that they are not a barrier to those of us who struggle with mobility challenges.
The concerns of a few residents who don't want any changes need to be weighed against the needs of everyone. Accessibility must trump aesthetics. Hillside Park is a public space, not a private backyard.