What follows is a copy of a letter I sent to the Mayor’s office today:
On Wednesday 5 December, my daily commute again took me along the Eliza Furnace Trail. At 6am my tracks were the only ones in the freshly fallen snow. My commute home showed many tracks, both pedestrian and bicycle. However, the next morning brought a new set of tracks; those of automobiles.
The picture shows the access to the trail at the Swineborne Street parking area. The track in the snow clearly shows a set of tire tracks going around the gate and continuing onto the trail. The gate itself was broken a long time ago and so cannot be secured closed but there is sufficient space on either side of the gate for vehicles to pass.
Out of frame to the right there is another gated access to the trail. That gate is also open and the snow shows tire tracks that appear to be from a different vehicle.
The next photograph shows a set of tracks approaching the ramp to the newly refurbished Hot Metal Bridge. The vehicle apparently backed up and then went around the ramps continuing on to Bates Street.
At Bates Street there are more tracks which show a vehicle (and the tracks look like those at the Hot Metal Bridge) either turning around at the Ã¢â‚¬Å“intersectionÃ¢â‚¬Â or exiting and later reentering the trail.
The tracks do not continue down the trail towards the 2nd Avenue Parking Lot.
Over my years of bicycle commuting on the Eliza Furnace trail I have occasionally encountered automobiles on the trail. I had always assumed that they had merely taken a wrong turn (or rather, two or three wrong turns and then missed the gates) or that they were construction or maintenance vehicles. However, even for construction vehicles I’m not sure my assumptions are correct.
Over the past year with construction ongoing on the Hot Metal Bridge, there was a white sedan with a hazard light on the top that would occasionally pass me on the trail in the morning on what I would assume was business having to do with either the bridge or the ongoing concrete repair along the Parkway (the trailers of which are under the Birmingham Bridge, another access point to the trail.) Since I would not later pass that vehicle parked on the trail he was clearly not on the trail to do something specific but was inappropriately using the trail as a throughway.
With at least two vehicles using the trail over a single night, it suggests the very real possibility that the trail is being used regularly by vehicles, this has likely been going on for years and that the snow has merely provided tangible evidence of this use.
This is unacceptable and the solution is simple; the gates at the various entrances to the trail must be repaired and improved.
At the Swineborne Street parking lot, the one gate has sufficient space on either side for vehicles to circumvent the gate, even if it were repaired, closed and secured. The other gate needs to be closed and secured.
At Bates Street the large rock that once blocked vehicle access to the trail has been moved aside. It either needs to be returned to its original location or a gate must be installed.
The two gates at the end of the 2nd Avenue parking lot need to be closed and secured.