Column: Shared space, shared responsibility

Enjoying the outdoors comes down to respect: Respect for nature and respect for each other

It defies belief what people think is acceptable in our shared spaces. On Sunday morning I and several others on the Peach Creek Rotary Trail were nearly mowed down by 60-odd cyclists riding fast and in tight formation.

Their shouts of warning might have made them feel responsible, but their actions clearly were not.

To anyone who has wandered the Peach Trail, they’ll know that it is barely wide enough to accommodate two abreast. The trail is winding, and there are many blind corners. It is closed to equestrian users – probably for that exact reason.

So if there ever was a place where a single cyclist should take it slow, that would be it.

Certainly it is no place for a phalanx of riders travelling at high speed.

The Peach Creek Rotary Trail opened a few years ago. It follows (for the most part) a trail that was originally built to access the salmon rearing ponds adjacent to the Vedder River. That trail was more like a path that would virtually disappear beneath the undergrowth as the season wore on. Still, it was popular and many had mixed feelings when it was upgraded to provide safer and year-round accessibility.

The new trail is not very long, and its flat terrain makes it easy to negotiate with strollers, or for children on bikes.

Despite its growing popularity, it’s not uncommon to hear the hollow tap of a palliated woodpecker, or see a banded kingfisher flash past.

The creek itself is home to a variety of waterfowl. But its primary purpose is to provide spawning habitat for salmon. That role is plain to see (and smell) each fall as salmon return from the ocean to lay their eggs in the relative calm of Peach Creek.

This marvel of nature is something many people can only read about. But thanks to the improved accessibility, local students can see it for themselves. They can learn about the incredible journey salmon make every four years and understand the importance of protecting habitats like these.

Unfortunately, not everyone shares that appreciation. Despite signs requiring owners to leash their dogs, and warnings about the damage those dogs can do to the salmon eggs laid in the creek, it’s common to see owners smiling obliviously as their animals bound through the ponds.

Perhaps that ignorance is understandable.

What is not understandable is a peloton of cyclists racing down a winding trail on a Sunday morning – a trail popular with children, seniors, dog walkers and other cyclists.

Last week I was writing about Cultus Lake and the trash left behind by ignorant and thoughtless people.

Sadly, those stories are not unique. As our population grows, so too does the pressure we place on our parks, trails and public spaces.

It’s up to us to use those spaces in a way that respects the environment, and does not impede the safe enjoyment by others.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress