Incinerator Park Path

This is a reprise of a post from two years ago regarding the trail that connects the foot of Ray Blvd to Ravenwood Ave. New this year are signs at each entrance to the park that announce that this is a recreational trail and that there is "NO WINTER MAINTENANCE."

Two years ago I complained that it is adding insult to injury to use both ends of the trail to pile up snow that has been scraped from road, forcing pedestrians that use the trail to climb over the snow banks. Two years ago I assumed that this situation was a simple matter of neglect; that this park was just not on the radar. Now we know that this neglect is by design and that the local residents are not considered deserving of a cleared path to walk to work, school, shopping or other destinations.

As I also pointed out in the previous post, this is a vital link in the neighbourhood. The path is 245 metres long. Alternate routes, taking Oliver Rd to the north or Beverley St to the south, are much longer. Significantly longer than most people, with the means, access and ability to drive a car, willingly choose to walk.

New Recreation Trail Signs

Unfortunately, it was very overcast the day that I took the next two pictures of the park entrances. The light is very "flat" and it is difficult to see how well the trail has been packed. I chose to use these photos, instead of waiting for a brighter day, because they were taken the day after a large dump of snow that closed all schools and many businesses in the city. Yet, by the next day, enough people had slogged through the snow to create a relatively well packed trail.  You can see at the East entrance that there are two paths over the snow bank and through the snow that converge at the trail. One from people walking up and down Ray Blvd and one from Duluth St commuters. During the time it took me to take these pictures, 4 other people used the trail to walk through the park in both directions. They were not walking a dog or out for a stroll; they were walking because this was the most efficient route to get where they were going. And they were fortunate to have the agility to take this route and not have a shopping cart or baby stroller with them.

Ravenwood entrance to Incinerator Park

I realize that the City of Thunder Bay does not have a bottomless bucket of money to spend clearing sidewalks and paths, but there are a few reasons that make the neglect of this path insulting and shameful:

  • The recreation trail along Ford St and Parkway Dr, for example, is plowed even though these streets provide a low traffic route for those that need to walk or cycle somewhere.  For much of Parkway Dr the road is plowed, the sidewalk is plowed AND the recreation trail is plowed. I agree that these paths should be cleared but how is this worth the money and the 245 m trail through Incinerator Park is not? How much money does it cost to plow the trails around Boulevard Lake? This trail should be cleared to accommodate the many users but, again, many commuters through Incinerator Park MUST use the trail as the only reasonable option to get where they need to go.
  • The City has money to maintain the baseball diamonds in Incinerator Park. Some local residents use the baseball diamonds, but these facilities get the most use from people in softball leagues that drive to the park. (Because of the lack of bollards, they often drive right on the recreation trail and there are sometimes dozens of cars parked on the grass in the park.) The city also finds the money to provide garbage cans near the dugouts. These cans are not near the trail and so litter tends to accumulate near the entrances to the park. The City relies on volunteers during the "Spring Up to Clean Up" campaign to pick up this litter. If they needed to pay their own employees to pick it up, I bet they would install and maintain conveniently placed garbage cans. That's why they put the cans near the dugouts - because the City has accepted responsibility to maintain the facilities for the benefit of the baseball leagues.
  • The City payed good money to buy and install signs that say that there is "NO WINTER MAINTENANCE" of the trail. A fact that is obvious to everyone!
Cars parked in Incinerator Park

New Pedestrian Bridge

A new pedestrian bridge installed in the fall of 2017 provides access between the Beverly Street area and Intercity

Excellent addition to the active transportation infrastructure in Thunder Bay. This point has a large catchment area that can use the bridge to access shops and services in the Intercity area.

Dog’s Can’t Read…much

This is a popular low-traffic route for pedestrians and cyclists to access the Intercity commercial district and so it seems reasonable to try and separate this traffic from the off-leash dogs in the park.

However, on one occasion when I followed the directions on the sign, while walking through the park, I was joined by an aggressive dog who didn't read the sign. This dog's owner/master/human companion was on the other side of the fence. As the human became concerned and began to raise his voice while trying to call the dog, the dog perceived me as a greater threat. I was lucky that the dog didn't bite, but it did nip, bark and growl as I walked, as calmly as possible, to the end of the fence where the snarling beast was reunited with its human.

As I continued on my walk, it occurred to me that the dog owner and all of the other dog walkers are themselves "pedestrians." Why don't all the humans walk on that side of the fence. Because that would be ridiculous, right?!

If anyone asks why I now always walk  on the "Dog" side of the fence (I still cycle on the other side during the summer) I am prepared to introduce them to my invisible (and possibly imaginary) dog, Harvey. If they get to walk on the "Dog" side of the fence then so do I. Otherwise all dogs should be required to pass a reading and comprehension test before entering the park.

The fact that people walk their dogs far past this fence along the old railway bed, means that every pedestrian and cyclist using this route must interact with the dogs anyway.

 

Carrick St Dog Park fence

Pedestrian needs to walk on the road due to poor sidewalk condition.

Walking to work this morning I noticed this Lakehead University student walking on Oliver Road because the slushy mess that accumulated on the sidewalk, since the plow last came by, froze into a solid-lumpy-icy mess overnight. The pedestrian would retreat onto the sidewalk when ever there was a press of morning commuters coming at him, and then take a chance that he could make it to the next intersection or driveway before another large group of vehicles came by.

This is a major pedestrian route from a residential area to the University which has approximately 7,000 students in addition to many more staff and faculty. You can see two small green dots in the distance - this is the entrance to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Center. This is the only acute care hospital in Thunder Bay, and serves the entire region. Oliver Road is one of two routes to the hospital. I have witnessed parents pushing their children in strollers along the roadway, where this student is walking, because the sidewalks are not passable. This is also a transit route. Sad!

 

Piling Snow to Block the Path

I'm not sure why someone thinks it is appropriate to pile snow in front of the paved recreation path through Incinerator Park. It could be because the path is not plowed during the winter. And in spite of this fact the path is obviously well used and there is always a well packed trail very soon after every new snowfall. It is not hard to figure out why the path is well used when you look at the importance of this pedestrian and cycling route to the neighbourhood. The question is: "why is this trail not better maintained?"

The path through the park between Ray Blvd and Ravenwood Ave is approximately 245 m. A relatively easy jaunt for most. The two alternate routes are approximately 6 times the distance at 1,460 m walking up to Oliver Rd or 1,410 m walking down to Beverly St. Considering that most people will not walk more than 400 m if given a choice of transportation options, means that abandoning this route during the winter is extremely irresponsible. 

Garbage cans to collect the Tim Horton's trash at the east end of the trail and Mac's Milk litter at the west end would also be a major improvement! The next thing you know, residents will want lighting along the trail...

Sidewalk Snow Clearing

MontageSidewalkSnowplow

I believe that there is a general attitude that considers snow as just something that we need to live with. “We live in Thunder Bay, what are you going to do…?” But many of the situations that make some sidewalks impassable for weeks at a time are the result of planning decisions.

The photos above were taken mid-February along Oliver Road in Thunder Bay. Oliver was widened to it’s current configuration sometime in the 1980’s as far as I can tell from historic air photos. When the road was constructed to accommodate a larger volume of vehicular traffic the curbs were placed within 30 cm from the sidewalk in some places. Now after the sidewalk plow comes by, the road plow often moves the snow from the road back onto the sidewalk, as can be seen in the photo on the left. The middle photo was taken on the same day but beside the Lakehead University campus where there is sufficient snow storage for this volume. Even after the sidewalk plow returns a day or two later, the sidewalk is now a valley  between two constructed snow banks that accumulates a deep, soft, slushy mess whenever the weather warms that then becomes a bumpy, slippery, dangerous surface when it gets cold again. The sidewalk plow can seldom remove this mess and it persists until the final spring melt.

Moving the road edge close to the sidewalk also subjects pedestrians to the threat of being splashed with a dirty, icy slurry during the winter and dirty water when it rains during the summer. This is not an act of God, or just an inevitable result of our climate. It was a choice made to improve the transportation network for vehicles, at the expense of pedestrians. When planning decisions such as these are made, contingencies must be considered to at least improve snow clearing along the route. The excuse of excessive expense is not acceptable. The City assumes that increasing the amount of asphalt will increase costs for road repair/rehabilitation, painting lines, maintaining intersections and clearing snow from the road; the extra costs for properly maintaining the sidewalk must also be “baked” into the cost of widening the road. No excuses.

Update to Vehicle Access

I am updating the previous post regarding vehicle access to public parkland. Snow_Com_Aud

It seems strange that staff clearing snow from the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium parking lot would purposely keep a vehicle route open into the park. During a busy winter, they always took the time to diligently keep this path open.

The other side of the park had a restriction to vehicles that was in place for a couple of years.

IncineratorRavenwoodEntranceYou can see from the photo that the bollard has not been present for a while (nor was it ever effective at keeping vehicles out of the park).

In addition to fly-tipping, noted in the previous post, you can see that this access also allows idiots to rip up the grass with their vehicles.IncineratorTireTracks

Roads, parking lots and driveways already represent a large proportion of the urban landscape. Motorized vehicles should not be allowed to degrade our parks and greenspaces.

Vehicle Access

The City has attempted to block vehicle access to parks and undeveloped areas around town. In many cases these barriers are eventually breached and, unfortunately, this inevitably leads to fly-tipping. WinnipegAveWalkway

FurnitureDiscardAuditoriumParkingLot

The earthen berm at the end of the Community Auditorium parking lot has been periodically rebuilt. The most recent removal of this barrier allowed at least one vehicle to drive between the baseball diamonds in Incinerator Park, tearing up the grass, and at least one pick-up truck load of trash was dumped at the edge of the bush inside the park this spring.

I can imagine the motives of some people, who are anxious to receive their rental damage-deposit back when they move. Many do not have access to a truck, or the money to rent one. This includes a few post-secondary students who move away after exams in the spring. The City policies regarding residential garbage pickup and tipping fees at the dump are sound but it has to be acknowledged that these same policies will motivate some to dispose of their trash where ever they can. The costs of monitoring, and cleaning up this sort of household waste from parks and undeveloped areas, and perhaps offering dump runs for low income families, should be included in the overall implementation of these policies.

I applaud all of the individuals and organisations that participate in the annual Spring-up to Clean-up program, promoted by EcoSuperior. But, perhaps, the thousands of hours of volunteer labour used to clean up Thunder Bay and pull tires, couches and all manner of debris from the bush, allows the City to be complacent about keeping vehicles out of some areas, providing and maintaining garbage cans, and considering the needs of people who can’t afford to properly deal with large quantities of trash. If the City had to pay their own employees for the hours it takes to do the Spring-up to Clean-up campaign, I think there would be more effort put in to prevent the problem in the first place.

There are a few people that have access to a truck and still choose to illegally dump their garbage. Preventing vehicle access to parkland in the city, lighting and monitoring of other areas, and increasing the maximum fine for illegally dumping are some measures that should be taken.

On a final note, for those that don’t consider yard waste, such as tree branches, as garbage – the reason you don’t leave it on your own front lawn is because it soon starts to look like an ugly pile of trash!

Crossing Memorial Ave

Memorial_High_SouthIt is very difficult to see the next traffic light when looking south on Memorial Ave from High St. The light, including the next marked pedestrian crossing, is approximately 1 kilometre away. Consider being midway between these intersections and needing to cross the street. During busy times of day it is difficult to find a safe break in traffic and crossing the 5 lanes of traffic is dangerous for anyone with mobility difficulty, at any time. If  the pedestrian walks to the light and then back down the other side of the street it could require walking a full kilometre to get where you want to go. Of course, if you have difficulty walking it is dangerous without a controlled crossing, but prohibitive to walk a kilometre to simply cross the street. It is interesting to note that most research into pedestrian behaviour shows that people with ready access to a vehicle will choose not to walk if the destination is more than about 400 m away.

Memorial_High_North

 

Looking north from High St we see a similar situation. It is possible to just make out the controlled intersection at John St but it is almost 800 metres away. Again, crossing between the lights is difficult and dangerous and yet a prohibitive distance to walk to the lights if you are not close to High St or John St. The more difficult it is for you to cross the street, the more onerous the extra distance to a controlled intersection becomes.

Memorial Ave is not part of suburban sprawl, but is a busy commercial strip which runs right through the heart of Thunder Bay. Having only one safe pedestrian crossing along a 1.8 km stretch of this artery is crazy! The Ontario government recently passed the Enhancing Road Safety in Ontario Act. It allows municipalities to use new pedestrian crossing devices. There are many places in Thunder Bay where these are needed but nowhere more so than along this stretch of Memorial Ave.

Another New Curb

Court_McVicar_trail.jpg

Nice new sidewalk. But where is the cut in the new curb? This is at the intersection of Court St and McVicar St. A perfectly appropriate and legal place for a pedestrian to cross the street. The recreation trail continues on both sides of Court St, along McVicar Creek, and so it is difficult to believe that the City would not consider the pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and others who will cross here. I can’t hop the curb with my recumbent bike, it would be difficult for children on bicycles and impossible for someone with a wheelchair.

Encouraging active transportation is a stated goal of the City but does not yet seem to be integrated into other planning. I have noted dozens of similar deficiencies with infrastructure constructed in recent years. Thunder Bay is spending more money on sidewalks and cycling lanes but continue to build unnecessary barriers to pedestrians and cyclists.