Protect and Keep Niagara’s Twelve Mile Creek Ravines Alive. Stop its Destruction! 

“The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games (CSG) is building a brand-new mountain bike racecourse, which is resulting in significant environmental destruction of the Twelve Mile Creek woodland and watershed. ….This new mountain bike racecourse and playground trails are being developed right now and built without any oversight of environmental authorities.”                                                                                                – Friends of Twelve Mile Creek

Twelve Mile Creek, flowing through St. Catharines to Lake Ontario. It ‘s rich ecology has suffered many man-made assaults over the past 50 or more years. Do we really now need to cut mountain bike race tracks through its wooded valleys?

A Message and a Petition for You to Consider Signing from Friends of Twelve Mile Creek, a citizens-based group in Niagara, Ontario

Posted October 8th, 2021 on Niagara At Large

The Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games (CSG) is building a brand-new mountain bike racecourse, which is resulting in significant environmental destruction of the Twelve Mile Creek woodland and watershed.

The contractor, the Niagara Trail Maintenance Association (NTMA), has been executing the CSG mission for this new mountain bike “racecourse” since the beginning of August 2021. This Twelve Mile Creek watershed of forest, natural vegetation, creeks, valleys, wetlands, steep hills, ridges, and wildlife habitats are being cut, removed, excavated, dug, disrupted, and permanently altered.  

The surrounding Niagara community are extremely disturbed and believe this mountain bike racecourse is totally inappropriate to be built in a fragile ecosystem, on already erosion prone ravine slopes, and adjacent to residential property lines.

The Twelve Mile Creek, flowing through St. Catharines, down from the Shorthills in Thorold and Pelham, and through to Port Dalhousie and Lake Ontario

Since the initial game bid in 2016, the mountain bike course was to be prepared using existing mountain bike trails on Brock University lands where there is suitable sport infrastructure, facilities, parking, and decades precedent of mountain biking riding.

The terrain and existing trails of Brock University lands were the ideal location for the mountain bike course and competition.  We are strong supporters of the CSG, and of the original bid location, or a viable alternative racecourse, but not the recent change of venue that will destroy one of the last natural and undisturbed greenbelt areas of St. Catharines.

This new mountain bike racecourse and playground trails are being developed right now and built without any oversight of environmental authorities, or the City of St. Catharines.  Similarly, there is no oversight by the landowner (Ontario Power Generation), nor cycling stakeholders such as the cycling community of Niagara, Cycling Canada or Ontario Cycling Association.  In other words, there is no formal supervision of any kind. 

The CSG and Ontario Power Generation have misled the community regarding the construction of this new mountain bike racecourse.  The CSG chair, Doug Hamilton stated in a minimally distributed letter that there would be “upgrades of safety and other minor improvements to the trail system”. Ontario Power Generation stated in response to our community concerns that “the games are permitted to make improvements to existing trails to improve safety for cyclists and recreational users.” 

The current reality is that the NTMA, contracted and funded by the CSG, is continuing their mission unabated, excavating the ravine, cutting vegetation, building bridges, shovelling out berms and building up embankments to create a brand-new racecourse. 

If the build continues, inevitably, this natural ravine will be destroyed.  Additional mountain bike playground trails are likely to be continually cut into previously untouched ravine areas.  

The steep slopes of the Twelve Mile Creek ravine are fragile, covered in dense vegetation and mature forest, forming an important wildlife habitat.  In addition, these ravine slopes have a history of instability with slope degradation and collapse.  

This new trail development is not necessary and poses a very real threat to the environment and to residents of the areas bordering the Twelve Mile Creek.  If this destruction is not stopped now, it will be too late.  

We are community members, residents, athletes, sporting enthusiasts, experts and scholars, and we support the CSG as being good for Niagara overall. However, we are passionately opposed to the destruction of the Twelve Mile Creek woodland and watershed.  We are opposed to the repurposing of this natural area for mountain bike racing.  

Alternative action is possible, but we must act now!  There is still a viable alternative to the current destruction happening in Twelve Mile Creek ravine.  

There are multiple trail networks in Niagara that have decades of mountain biking history and a precedent of riding, racing and coexisting with other trail users.  Therefore, the mountain bike racecourse for the CSG and its legacy need not be destructive to the environment, wildlife habitat and the well being of the local community. There is a better way.

Time to “Change Course” and do the right thing; protect our environment and have a proper strategic and sustainable legacy plan that will allow for an all-inclusive cycling for life practice to the Niagara residents and visitors.

To visit this petition online for the purposes of signing it, click on https://chng.it/kmkfpV95Jy

To watch a video circulated by Friends of Twelve Mile Creek about the ecosystem in question, click on the screen immediately below –

About Friends of 12 Mile Creek – It began as a small group of local residents working together trying to respond to and understand the rationale for the location change for the mountain bike course for the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games.  This change of location was to 12 Mile Creek, and much of our community backed onto where the new course was to be built.  This learning process served as a catalyst to the importance of the 12 Mile Creek biodiversity and of helping to preserve the cultural and environmental integrity of the area. It prompted us to get actively involved and organized so as to ensure that the character and lifestyle of this unique natural setting would be protected and nurtured instead of being exploited and destroyed.

Here are the first few paragraphs of  an open letter from Niagara resident and former Olympic champion medalist Steve Bauer in opposition to this plan for  a mountain bike racecourse long the slopes of Twelve Mile Creek –

Niagara, Ontario’s champion cyclist Steve Bauer with his Silver Medal for  cycling at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics

October 5, 2021 – “To the community at large, across Niagara Cycling is my life. I enjoy mountain bike riding. I enjoy mountain bike trail riding on Twelve Mile Creek on existing trails.

“However, I cannot accept what the cost will be to the Twelve Mile Creek environment to obtain a new racecourse and expand the trails through a specific area of previously undeveloped ravine, which is currently undergoing serious trail development. I cannot accept that this new racecourse for the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games (CSG) is OK. It is not ok.

“As a lifelong cyclist, I am opposed. I am opposed because I now intimately understand what has happened and the need to highlight that there are acceptable alternatives to the CSG mountain bike racecourse that will allow the athletes to compete on a challenging elite course, without destroying the surrounding environment.

 “I believe that the Canada Summer Games and Ontario Power Generation are blatantly ignoring the environmental cost of what they believe is acceptable to the Niagara community at large.”

The full open letter is quite lengthy and Niagara At Large is considering posting all of it at a later date.

Steve Bauer is a retired professional road bicycle racer from Niagara who makes his home in St. Catharines. He is currently a sport director on the professional road cycling World Tour. He was the winner of the first Olympic medal in road cycling for Canada in 1984 followed by a successful professional career over 12 years. He has spent his life devoted to cycling

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

20 responses to “Protect and Keep Niagara’s Twelve Mile Creek Ravines Alive. Stop its Destruction! 

  1. Do the Right Thing and Change the venue

    The simple and straight about this CSG MTB racecourse is this. There is no reason to have chosen a pristine ravine for the course when there are numerous viable alternatives in for this course in Niagara. The community must ask the question why must a pristine natural ravine be destroyed from its original state.

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  2. In regards to the post and petition by the Friends of 12 mile creek.
    This opinion is full of inaccuracies and misinformation.
    There will be a statement forthcoming soon by all the stakeholders involved in the Canada Summer Games mountain bike course building that will address and clarify this issue.
    Please refrain from signing the petition until the full story has been heard.

    Thank you

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    • Hi Paul (last name?). What exactly is inaccurate and what constitutes misinformation in your opinion? Your response gives the impression that you know more than we do, so please share. Because from the outset we have been trying to get honest answers. We look forward to seeing a statement from the Niagara Canada Summer Games in response to questions that have not yet been answered, as per your statement. The petition and the supporting information we are providing is accurate, based on what we have been told (in writing especially) and what we have learned from multiple sources. Based on what we have learned we want to see the construction of the racecourse at 12 Mile Creek stopped and moved to a location where the Games competition course can utilize established existing trails with a greatly reduced impact on the environment. We fully support the Games, but there is no rational reason that we have found for moving the course to 12 Mile Creek and destroying more of that area. And since we believe that nothing will change unless we can create greater public awareness, the petition is one means to get the full attention of the decision-makers and proper consideration of options for a “better way”.

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      • Jessica Thomson

        I agree Guy! There are plenty of challenging trails in this area and I hate to see these new trails carved through the green space. The area where many of the new trails have been cut are steep and difficult to walk through as there is brush and uneven ground. This area should be kept wild for wildlife. These slopes are just recovering from dredging the river.
        Since our neighbourhood was informed of this development we are responsible to act upon our feelings and we are concerned about further development in this ravine. Please stop this mountain bike race course.

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      • John Pheelzie

        Jessica…. what you see as “Challenging enough” may not be, and in fact is not adequate for the requirements set fourth by Cycling Canada to challenge the athletes. Plus, being a little more difficult to walk through will also help to naturally separate cyclist and hikers (trail runners will enjoy using it though) along the 12mile reducing incidents of sudden interaction.
        Additionally, the process of these trails seems to have identified concerns from city infrastructure as well as “dumping” that would have certainly had a detrimental effect on your connecting properties… and dare I say future “Land value.”
        Looks like the trails and a maintenance program will help enhance and perpetuate the existence of the 12 mile…. keep it from being used for nefarious reasons in the future…. and increasing your property values too, because everyone loves a well maintained, beautiful and accessible trail system

        “Trail Trooper”

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  3. II will only add two comments.
    In order for people to do the right thing they need ALL THE INFORMATION FROM ALL SIDES!

    The opponents of this project need to research and learn the definition of Pristine. This area is far from Pristine.
    I will not be commenting again until the official statements are released.

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    • Why do we keep going backwards? .I will never understand given the environmental /climate change times we are living in knowing how extremely critical protecting our ecosystems are to sustaining healthy communities , we still have to fight political irresponsible decision making and their total disrespect for our natural heritage and water resource systems.TOTALLY MINDBOGLING and very disheartening when there are many other options.

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      • Judy, you have succinctly summarized why we are putting personal time and effort into this campaign, and this has not been easy for many of us, as this is a huge undertaking trying to get at the truth and try and work out a solution that supports the Games but does not further harm environments like 12 Mile Creek, an area that has been abused for decades, by all of us. The decision-makers in this scenario have simply taken the course of least resistance in getting things done, because few people appear to care enough to ask the hard questions and to get involved. And others dare not get in the way, even though they have the same concerns that we have, and know things they will only share anonymously. We are not some radical fringe group, but a very small group of local residents who have witnessed this from the “front lines”, and we have learned how something like this can happen so quickly, “under everyone’s radar”, and with a daily appreciation of what the consequences have been and learning what the longer term impact may be as well. Our community has always had walking and biking paths in parts of this ravine and organized competitions, and some of us ancient athletes participated fully, and we have been blessed to be a part of such a beautiful setting, in our opinion. So, I will not get into all of the reasons again as to why this is the wrong location based on “wrong decisions”, but to simply ask why do we need to cut more trails that eliminate and impact more of our remaining natural environments, for such a limited use when there are so many existing trails that could be used for the same purpose. We want to do the right thing and we are not looking for a fight, but a way to share what we know and to suggest that there is a “better way”. The petition is not a protest against the Games but a way for us to share what we have learned and to create greater awareness of what is happening because it seems to be happening all across Niagara, and beyond. And yes, everyone talks about the environment being the most important issue of our time, but who dares “walk the talk”. Well, we are trying to do so right now, and we are not very popular with a lot of folks which is rather ironic would you not say.

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      • John Pheelzie

        I agree, there has been a shift to a lack of respect and movement of certain generations to cherish and protect the environment and her ecosystems.
        One way to foster that sense of responcibilty is to get more people out and into nature. Trails will do this. The 12 mile creek is by no means an untouched and pristine ecosystem as other would shout, but it could be a useful catalysts for change. It could turn into a well planned, beautifully built, sustainable and properly maintained network to get more people out into, appreciating and fostering a desire to protect nature.

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    • PRISTINE – Adjective, Definition: “not spoiled, corrupted, or polluted (as by civilization)”.
      Prior to August 2021, this large portion, of the Twelve Mile Creek ravine was in its original condition, natural state. NO man made trails existed where the racecourse extension was planned. This precise portion of the ravine was “pristine” and in its original state. Unfortunately, today this is no longer the case due to the construction of the CSG MTB racecourse. The ravine is now spoiled and corrupted. The CSG MTB racecourse could have been planned on existing mtb trails and avoided further destruction of nature.

      Like

  4. Far be it from me to say anything in defence of bikers who have forced us 2 seniors to jump off paths to save our lives more times than stars at night, and to be clear I’ll never defend them, most are walker-endangering crazy nutbars charging full speed up behind walkers without warning, we hate them, but, Pristine ? 12 Mile Creek has NOT been Pristine in about 200 years ! Its been changed and manipulated and dredged and straightened and enlarged and flow-increased so much over 200 years it could actually do with a name change too.

    A Brief Response from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large – In all due respect Mr Hartwell, when you say that the Twelve Mile Creek has already suffered abuse, I hope you are not saying we should not bother doing whatever we can to protect the natural features still there and to rehabilitate it as a healthy ecosystem in the future? That would be like saying the Niagara River had toxic waste dumped into it for the better part of a century so let’s just leave it like that. The Games committee already had a plan for another course for this mountain bike venue. that would have been less impactful on this important watershed in Niagara …. What is wrong with just going back to that?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Mr Draper, I guess I forgot to include that I do indeed totally agree with you. They already have the 1st option to utilize, which I understand is nearly adjacent to other events associated with their new buildings for the games. My apology about forgetting to say so.

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  6. I am very concerned by the damage I have seen being unnecessarily done to the ravine (behind my house) when a previously planned mountain bike racecourse route has aready been approved! Additional construction needs to be stopped until the necessary environmental safeguards are enforced.

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  7. A bridge has now been built over a small creek to connect the north and south sections of the proposed racecourse. This allows mountain bikers to enter a very large, natural area of the ravine up the slopes where there are no hiking or cycling trails. Multiple extensive mountain bike trails are planned for this area of thick vegetation and wildlife habitat.

    We have lived along the ravine for more than 27 years and, prior to the racecourse, we have rarely seen anyone near this small creek or up the slopes to the north. Almost all of the movement we have seen there has been wildlife (eg. deer, fox, coyote, racoon, opossum, squirrel, wild turkey, bald eagle, hawks, dozens of other bird species).

    We have seen no evidence that planning for the racecourse has seriously considered how racing events or the multiple new extensive mountain bike trails might impact the health of the Twelve Mile Creek, the fragile ravine, and wildlife.

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  8. Mother Nature has spoken. The ravine where the proposed Canada Summer Games mountain bike racecourse is proposed and being excavated into the valley slope will now be a public safety concern. Huge sinkholes have opened up with the recent rainfall and in due diligence for public safety, the city of St. Catharines or Ontario Power Generation will condemn public access. This is NOT a minor issue and public authorities will take the right decision to stop the construction of this racecourse in a ravine area extremely sensitive to erosion. Mother Nature has spoken loud and clear shortly after the community has spoken about the destruction of this natural ravine where no trails existed before Canada Summer Games decided to impose on this pristine section of greenbelt.

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    • FACT CHECK.
      The sinkholes and erosion on the so called “Pristine” land is being caused by a storm sewer leaking.
      IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TRAILBUILDING!!.
      In fact if it wasn’t for the trail being built this sewer leak would have gone undetected.

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  9. I was out walking the area again to see what all of this fuss is about.
    It looks like some broken storm sewer pipes are to blame for the sinkholes/erosion.
    You keep calling this “pristine” land.
    My question is.
    What are sewer pipes doing on “not spoiled, corrupted, or polluted (as by civilization)” land?

    W.Johnson

    A Brief Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large – Okay, so let’s say there are sewer pipes having a negative impact on the ecology of that area. Then let’s address that. It certainly doesn’t follow that we therefore move foreword with other activities that may have a negative impact. Where is the environmental impact study or review that supports this mountain bike operation at this site?

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  10. Friends of Twelve mile Creek

    We are all waiting on the documentation of an environmental impact study. FACT CHECK. Sewer pipe … NOT. Storm drain pipe of natural water run off from the Niagara Escarpment…TRUE. Excessive erosion because of excess water from broken pipe on a erosion prone slope ..YES. Highly important public safety concern. YES. Is the trail build the cause… NO. Does the erosion endanger the newly planned racecourse ..ABSOLUTELY it does. Were MTB trails in this location before September… NOT. Only deer trails existed. This section of the Twelve mile creek ravine was Untouched and “Pristine” before the CSG MTB racecourse build began…FACT and TRUE.

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  11. Trail Trooper here… let me drop something on ya.
    I see two complaints against the trails, one… protecting the environment, and two, dealing with high speed cyclists interrupting walkers and hikers.
    We will just look at these two points right now, all others like why the course was moved…. how sinkholes formed and are being repaired… Why the area was never listed as a protected environmental site… Why did Steve Bauer leave his Volunteer Role…. is building sustainable… is it approved….. ect can be addressed when this apparently incoming response letter is released.

    About Protecting Greenspaces!

    First off, the area in question has had major human impact over the last several hundred years. Industrial use, and recently dredging for power use. It has been seriously disturbed over the the last several hundred years. But that doesn’t mean it can not be returned to a lovely state. AND, one way of doing that is to provide an emotional connection of it to the community, an attractive draw for visitors and for residents. Adding sustainably built and well maintained and properly identified trails does both of these things. Getting people into green spaces fosters more of a sense to protect and cherish them. Active outdoor spaces attracts visitors, enhances the draw to new residents and entices current residents to remain in the city.
    These lands are not pristine at the moment and will likely never receive protection status…. they could be subjected to future use of a damaging manner. But, having it used as a recreational trail centre will help protect it from damaging use and also through continued maintenance ensure the area stays green and is enhanced over its life.

    Now, how about interactions between Cyclists and Walkers/Hikers?

    iI goes without saying the Pandemic has moved more people outside to seek adventure in Green Spaces. There are more walkers, Runners, Hikers and yes, Cyclists. The Trails along the 12 Mile have always been used by several user types. With more and more people getting outside the likelihood of increased crossing of paths has most certainly happened… so, new trails can help mitigate those interactions. Additional trials, specific trails geared more towards cyclists will move those riders off the main trails and thus help decrease sudden interactions between users. Safer for hikers, safer for cyclists. Yes the new trails might be harder to navigate for some user groups, but that intent will help move cyclists of greater skill off the multiuse trails where they can operate at increasingly higher speeds. Another part of helping manage these interactions is through education. New cyclists need to be made aware that they must give right of way to every trail user, they should have bells to alert trail users of their presence. Education through various methods including online, trail head signage and through bike shops will assist reaching as many new and existing riders as possible.

    So…. if you want to protect the 12 mile from future damaging use and have it monitored and maintained (it wasn’t until recently and through trail building it sounds like a few concerns of safety and damaged city infrastructure were identified)….. Trails and a maintenance program with the City and independent maintenance provider will do this.
    Do you want to make the area safer for all users….. Trails will do that by helping separate users groups more effectively and also ensuring all trails are maintained and the adjacent lands are also monitored and repaired.

    Trail Trooper

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  12. Helen Staal & Peter Ramm

    We just learned that the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has recently started a review of the Canada Summer Games mountain bike racecourse. The NPCA stated that it was not previously aware of the construction of this course, that work had been done without a required permit, and that new trails had been cut in areas where there were no existing ones.

    As local residents for almost 30 years we are familiar with the area where this course is being built and with the environmental destruction that is occurring. We have followed many of the online conversations from those who are opposed or in favour of the course. We would like to raise some information that is sometimes overlooked.

    The fragile area in the Riverview ravine is only a small part of the Twelve Mile Creek valleyland. However, it is rich in unique and beneficial wildlife and vegetation (including many protected species), and is an important part of the ecology of the greenbelt that runs through the City of St. Catharines and into the Niagara escarpment.

    This type of woodland ravine is recognized as a valuable resource and therefore has many environmental protections (e.g. Significant Woodland designation under the City of St. Catharines Official Plan; regulation by NPCA). The City’s Urban Forestry Management Plan recognizes that the trees in ravines are a critically important part of the urban forest, providing extensive health, economical, and environmental benefits.

    The Riverview ravine is not the same as it was many years ago. However, the parts of it that are still primarily unused retain more of an indigenous ecosystem than the parts that are heavily used. We need to respect the balance between unfrequented areas of nature and heavily travelled areas. Opening up new areas to exploitation can disturb the balance in ways that have proven to be destructive in other ravines. The situation is particularly serious with mountain bike trails because of the tendency for users to add unauthorized trails, which further degrade the ravine.

    Recreational trails are very beneficial, but not in all areas. The sensitive ecosystem of a forested ravine can only accommodate a limited number of trails, and a limited number of people. Ravines are fragile and require conservation. Otherwise, opening up new trails may destroy the very thing that is attractive to recreational users (green space with large trees, other vegetation and wildlife). This type of loss is not easily reversed.

    Building and using new trails results in a fundamental change to the local ecology . The building process removes important vegetation (including seedlings, which affects the next generation of tree saplings), disturbs and exposes more soil, increases the area with no groundcover, exposes tree roots, destroys valuable wildlife habitat, and changes waterflow. The negative effects of this on the Riverview ravine would include: loss of wildlife, reduced tree canopy, spread of invasive plants out-competing native plants, increased erosion from heavier rains (perhaps associated with climate change), increase in slope instability, unhealthy deposits into Twelve Mile Creek due to soil displacement and reduced filtering of storm water, and reduction in biodiversity.

    We agree that trail maintenance is a good thing, but we do not believe that trails should be everywhere. Trail maintenance does not solve the problems with new trails if we destroy an ecosystem by building them. It is not a competition between recreational trail systems and unused areas – at least it shouldn’t be. There is plenty of room for both. We are fortunate to have so many recreational trails in the Niagara region. Why do we need to exploit this area of valuable forest on the Riverview ravine slopes? There is an abundance of trails elsewhere and providing a racecourse for a small group of mountain bike competitors is not a sufficient reason.

    How many trails (and of which type) should exist in this ravine? Answering this question requires a detailed investigation and environmental assessment, with the input of all interested parties. It requires formal commitment from stakeholders to maintain trails into the future. None of these requirements have been met for the racecourse. Instead, work has proceeded in a careless and expedient manner, creating a problem that will have consequences for all ravine areas along the Twelve Mile Creek and for the community at large.

    H. Staal & P. Ramm

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