Cracked pavement, ATVs creating unsafe walking trails in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, say residents

A summer stroll is more like a navigational nightmare for users of some local walking trails in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

'There's cracks, there's gaping holes in the concrete'

A dirt bike drives down the walking trail near Mealy Mountain Collegiate school, which Richelle Weeks says is a common occurrence. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

People hoping to enjoy a summer stroll down one of the local walking trails in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are instead finding themselves navigating treacherous terrain while trying to avoid aggressive off-road drivers.

"It's falling apart. There's cracks, there's gaping holes in the concrete or the pavement," says local fitness advocate Richelle Weeks of the trail by Mealy Mountain Collegiate School.

We've had people give us the middle finger and curse at us.- Richelle Weeks

Weeks is a board member with Trappers' Running Club in the town and teaches beginner's running classes.

She encourages people to live healthy, active lifestyles, and said poor trail upkeep and inaccessible entry points are major deterrents — especially for anyone with mobility issues.

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay put up signs advising drivers to stay off walking trails, but Richelle Weeks says those signs are being ignored. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

"If you're in a wheelchair, you're not getting up this," said Weeks, pointing to the steep incline and loose sand leading to the walking trail.

"Same with the motorized scooters, and once you are on it, it's not very enjoyable."

'Just a highway for ATVs'

It isn't just poor pavement that's raising concerns — off-road vehicles are driving up and down the narrow walkways, too.

"Often it's just a highway for ATVs and dirt bikes," said Weeks, as several of the machines roared past her on the stretch of bumpy asphalt.

Numerous dirt bike and ATV tracks can be seen leading up to the walking trail near Mealy Mountain Collegiate school. (Jonny Hodder/CBC)

The town put up signs near trail entrances letting drivers know they aren't permitted on the trails, but Weeks and her running group still have regular encounters with recreational off-road vehicles.

"We've had people give us the middle finger and curse at us and shake their head as they go down around us and we're standing there using it for what it's meant for," she said.

Town wants input

The Town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay has launched an online survey, asking people their opinion on the state of walking and biking trails and received more responses than it was expecting. 

"I think that people are excited that the town is sort of taking a position on this issue because there have been a lot of complaints concerning the state of the current bike and walking trails and the lack of infrastructure that we have," said Samantha Noseworthy, the town's director of community development and research.

So far, more than 360 people have responded, with ATV use and poor trail maintenance topping the list of complaints, along with a couple of other pet peeves.

Richelle Weeks is a fitness advocate in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Jonny Hodders/CBC)

"They don't feel safe walking in the dark and at night," said Noseworthy, who said people reported insufficient lighting.

"[As well as] just the general maintenance and upkeep of the trails, sweeping the trails, keeping them free of garbage and glass and that sort of thing. People would like to see improvements in that area," she said.

Noseworthy said the town will compile a report based on the survey results and input from a series of focus groups, which will help provide "a lot more context and deeper explanations of people's feelings and thoughts and opinions."

But Noseworthy said fixing the issues starts the first step of hearing the opinions of trail users. 

"They've been really useful," said Noseworthy.