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Group eyes Christie park’s ‘remarkable topography’ for mountain bike trails

Mountain biking enthusiasts will have a challenging new course to test their mettle if plans for a specialized trail network at Christie Lake Conservation Area get the green light.

Spearheaded by the Hamilton Cycling Club, the project will see the group’s volunteers build 10 kilometres of single-track trails in an underused area to the south of the Greensville park’s reservoir known as the pine plantation.

The plans go to the Hamilton Conservation Authority board of directors on July 7, but already have the endorsement of staff and a key advisory board.

Marc Risdale, an executive member of the cycling club, said the one-way trails will be developed in consultation with authority ecologists to ensure they don’t harm sensitive areas and include beginner, intermediate and advanced sections.

They will also be suitable for hiking, snowshoeing and, potentially, cross-country skiing, although some stretches may be a bit narrow for the latter, the Dundas resident said.

“The trail will highlight another side of Christie that people don’t know. They just think of it as these wide, sort of horse trails going around pine plantations,” Risdale said.

“When you get in those trees, it’s really another world,” he said.

“There’s a remarkable amount of different topography and forest types, so it’s really well-suited to this kind of project.”

A boon for Hamilton

Dan Bowman, chair of the conservation areas advisory board and an authority director, said as long as the trails are built safely, they will be a boon for Hamilton, especially as the Pan Am Games focuses attention on cycling.

“I’m excited for Dundas,” he said.

“I think this sort of proposal allows people to practice their sport in a safer environment. As well, though, people will test their limits to do as much as they can as quick as they can.”

Sandy Bell, manager of design and development, said the trail system will not only draw more people to Christie, but provide a less destructive alternative for Mountain bikers who use the Dundas Valley in an area “that is fairly well controlled.”

The trails will be between 1.5 and three metres wide and use hard-packed earth to provide natural runoff and avoid washouts, he said.

“One of the things that goes behind this approach is that I’ve always felt that when you don’t want people to go in certain other places, then provide them a place where they can go,” Bell said in a presentation to the advisory board.

“We think the most effective people in keeping everyone on the trails are the other bikers. If they put this effort to get this established, they’re going to make sure they do everything to make sure it’s kept open for them.”

Risdale said it takes six volunteers about three hours to build 100 metres of trail and he expects the project to take about two years to complete.

“We try to get rid of topsoil and dig down to subsoil so we gave good mineral soil, so that it drains well and you can compact it,” he said. “It’s all hand labour and it’s quite intensive.”

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