I had a citizen write me who was concerned that we posted some trails at Quarry Hill for specific uses. Michael Nigbur took the time to write a real thorough response to the concern. Since he put so much thought into the answer I thought I would share it for the greater public.
Good morning XXXX
I appreciate the input on the trail usage. The signage is new this year as a trial to determine what if any issues exist for skiers & snow shoe users vs. other park users. This was prompted due to the increased number of hikers walking in the groomed ski trail area. Since the signage has gone up we had some initial comments about a month ago. However, since then very few comments or concerns have been provided. Especially once people understand what the reasoning is behind the signage
RASC is a great partner to the Rochester Park system. They provide assistance all year long. I would speculate that they easily spend hundreds if not thousand hours improving our parks all on a volunteer basis. They have provided Mountain Biking trails and hiking/ walking trails for use in the summer and those same trails are then used for skiing and snow shoes in the winter time. They provide services at not only at Quarry Hill but at Essex and Eastwood and Game Haven. Without their help we would not have the off paved trail system available for the entire community to use. They do this out of a passion for active outdoor recreation.
As for the issue of denying access to the Park. I understand that some people may disagrees with the segregation of uses. However, we are not denying access to the park There are plenty of areas available within Quarry Hill and other parks to satisfy the needs of all community users. Nevertheless, segregation of uses is commonly done throughout the park system across the nation. Separation of game and practice fields, separation of dog parks from other parks, exclusion of mountain biking within certain parks, areas prohibited from access via signage/gates or other actions, restrictions on parking, etc. These separations are done for maintenance, funding, safety & welfare, and to ensure users a park system that meets the varying needs of the community.
Park Department staff tries to resolve/manage conflicts through a process of trial and error using past history, State & National best practices/information, logic/common sense and communication before having to escalate to creating formal rules/enforcement. This is not always successful and we sometimes are just wrong, or the policy just is not manageable as contemplated, or other times the individuals just do not care and may disregard the policies or rules and others are looking out for their own self interest rather than the good of the overall community (which is what our charge is as a department). As noted previously one of the key points is that we operate a park system and that system attempts to provide for the community the various needs/desires within the system. Every park will not, nor cannot meet every need of each resident. As such restrictions, rules, ordinances do come into play to help manage and meet these needs.
The process we utilize to manage the various uses includes staff implemented practices/policies , some are staff implemented/board informed (no formal action is taken), some are actual park rules adopted by Park Board, and lastly some include overriding city wide ordinances adopted by Council. With each increase in level of regulation/management there is a complimentary increase in penalty for violation and inflexibility for any changes/modifications.
For this particular case, this separation for skiing/hiking has been in place many many years and only in an advisory fashion….the difference is that it has just not been signed as forthright as we have done this year. Consequently with the increasing use of the park there have been more conflicts. With increases in conflict and the need to efforts to manage the work that goes into the trail maintenance there was a response needed to attempt to address the conflict beyond relying on past practice ant mapping. As such the thought to add some signage to inform people where skiing only is allowed was the logical next step. If the sign locations and sign content need to be modified based comments received and actions of users we will make adjustments for next season. As we continue to monitor this situation, if further restrictions are needed due to continued conflicts even with installation of more intensive signage then we could consider escalating this up in the regulatory process. However, that is not our primary goal.
I should point out that every park user is important to us, however, we must manage the entire system for the community as a whole. In the end most people understand the ability to balance the varying needs of the community and are willing to adjust their specific desire for the good of all.
I hope this provides and understanding of what & why we do certain things. Feel free to contact me with additional questions.