These cyclists fight 'ongoing battle' against city as officials remove unauthorized Little River bike trail
The city first demolished the unsanctioned system of jumps in 2017
For Ryan Bertrand, the bike trail in Little River in the east end of Windsor, Ont. is an escape — a place for him to enjoy the outdoors and alleviate stress.
But he and other trick bike enthusiasts are upset that the City of Windsor removed the jump tracks, which some members of the local biking community put together.
"It kind of makes me feel a little bit mad just because we put so much work into building these and it's made so many lifelong friendships ... getting us away from bad things, like I haven't played a video game in two years just because of this," he said.
Biker Aaron Rivard, 28, agrees. He's been biking in the area for more than 20 years.
"I've been coming here since I was probably six or seven years old. And from when I was allowed to leave the house on my own, this is where I would come. It's a great place for kids, adults, anybody of any age to take out some steam and let go of the current world problems," he said.
"It's discouraging. It's very discouraging. Imagine spending hours out here, baking in the sun every day and then the city just comes in with their tractors and wrecks it all," he said. "It's ridiculous. It sucks."
The first track was removed by the city in 2017.
James Chacko, senior manager of parks for the City of Windsor, said the bike trails are unauthorized, posing a health and safety concern and liability risk.
He also said there are environmental concerns and the city will look into ecological remediation.
"Although I fully appreciate that the people building them mean well, when you build unauthorized trails that are not built to standard, we don't know how they're engineered, how they were designed, what sort of materials go in," he said.
"Just because you built it and you may know exactly what it is, it's not a monitored, controlled site anymore. Other people show up to the park and think, 'well, this is a pretty complicated looking setup. The city must have built this. It must be safe.' And of course, it's not."
He said the bike trails built by some members of the local biking community have now been taken apart and the city will continue to monitor the area.
He also said the city is currently building authorized bike trails at Malden Park and Little River, which are set to open this year.
According to Chacko, the trails in Malden Park are more intermediate to advanced and should be ready by the end of the summer. The pump track in Little River, which he says is geared more to beginner and intermediate bikers, should be completed by mid-May.
"We want to make sure that it's safe and it's open to as many users, as many members of the public as possible," he said, adding that the city can build more advanced systems afterward and hopes to work with the local community.
Rivard dismissed the city's reasoning behind demolishing the community-built bike track and said that people would use their better judgement to only go on jumps suited to their size and level of expertise.
"You're going to look at a jump and you're not going to go above your means. You're going to hit whatever you can. There's some smaller jumps for the smaller kids," he said.
Rivard also said the area was well-maintained and old trail didn't cause damage to the environment like the city has said it did, adding that the city's removal of the bike trail left the area looking worse than before.
"It looks gross. It looked better before. It was well-maintained. It's not like we're out here throwing garbage everywhere," he said.
Rivard said he doesn't have high hopes for the authorized bike tracks that are now being built.
"If you're looking to hit some jumps, it's not going to be sufficient," he said, adding that he expects the local community will continue to build their own tracks.
"It's an ongoing battle," he said.
"I definitely see people building more jumps here, and if they take these jumps down, I'm sure there's other jumps being built in the city. It's nature. We want to ride bikes and we want to hit jumps. So we're going to build them."