Nicholas Drouillard and John Gignac watched in disbelief Thursday as bulldozers leveled the bike park they helped shape and build for countless hours over the past five years.
"I'm sick to my stomach," said Gignac as the machines crushed ramps and rolled over small trees, leaving scraped earth where the "Dirt Church" once wound through the bush behind the Ganatchio Trail.
The demolition came after a surprise motion brought by Councillor Irek Kusmierczyk to save the trail failed during council's Monday night meeting.
Several residents complained about the park, citing safety concerns and the city's decision was based on liability issues, but riders and their supporters still don't buy their reasoning.
"I think it's a really sad day," said Brian Gignac, who isn't related to John, but got to know him at the track. "I don't see any reasoning behind it. I don't believe for one minute this excuse council gives about liability issues."
The pair met years ago when Brian discovered the trail while walking with his wife.
Years of work rolled over
Brian said he's watched the park's progress, as the hard work of riders helped it spread through the woods.
"I thought it was absolutely amazing," he said. "It's a wonderful place for kids to get together instead of playing in the house. Reminds me of the way we used to play when we were kids."
Drouillard has devoted years of his life to improving the park and making sure it's safe for riders — he can't understand where council is coming from.
"I think it's pretty insane," he said. "I used to come here five to seven years ago and it's a place to relieve stress and think about me and my bike and nothing else."
Gignac is worried the efforts of the demolition crew are only going to make things more dangerous.
"This is so much worse and the kids are still going to try to ride this," he said, gesturing at the wreckage and exposed edges of culverts and pipes the bulldozers had torn up.
'Don't ever give up'
Council did support Kusmierczyk's request that city administration speak with groups of riders and other trail users and bring back a report about creating an off-road track at a different location, but the riders have their doubts that will happen.
Earlier this week, Brian put up a sign in the park with a simple message: "Don't give up."
On Thursday he repeated his plea with an added piece of advice.
"Don't ever give up," he said. "And don't forget the elections."