Tin Can Hill lovers tell city to keep it wild

Tin Can Hill lovers tell city to keep it wild
Ann Peters records the comments of Yellowknifers who turned out last Thursday for a walkabout on Tin Can Hill, a 57-hectare patch of boreal forest, bogs and glaciated rock between Yellowknife Bay and the former Con Mine site.Photo: Jack Danylchuk.

After decades of neglect that was not always benign, Tin Can Hill is at the top of Yellowknife’s project list.

City administration is asking the public for ideas about what to do about the trails that wind through its 57 hectares of boreal forest and glaciated rock wedged between Yellowknife Bay and the former Con Mine site.

More than 100 people spoke with consultants last week during escorted hikes and a public meeting where they pored over maps and aerial images of what is destined to be a park and recreation area.

A conceptual design based on the consultation will be presented for public review before a final plan is drafted, which should be simple based on the dominant message left with consultants: do as little as possible.

Tin Can Hill has absorbed decades of abuse and use as Yellowknife grew from mining camp to territorial capital, serving as a dump, lover’s lane, and adventure playground for children, adults, dogs, trail runners and mountain bikes.

An occasional home for guerrilla campers, it hosts stargazers and aurora watchers. Booze parties have rained calling cards of shattered glass across the ground. Old fire rings, tin cans and abandoned bits of automobiles lurk in the undergrowth.

In winter, it’s a throughway for snow machines; in the months without snow, a place to rip and snort with a new ATV or motorbike, or see just how deep four-wheel drive can chew into a sodden peat bog.

The city took a significant bite from the hill two years ago to built a road to the new water treatment plant, broadening an old trail, filling in a bog and then blasting an exit through a rock bluff to link up with a new condominium development.

Despite the encroachments, Tin Can Hill remains a wild place and an important corridor for bears, wolves, coyotes and fox. The paved and groomed trails that trace the shores of Frame and Niven Lakes, with benches, maps and interpretive signs, seem urban and formal beside the hill’s profusion of natural paths.

Dog walkers, naturalists, runners and hikers would like to retain that wildness, they told the consultants.

“Needs a welcome sign, with a map, at the entrance,” suggested a note, one that says “no motorized vehicles beyond this point.”

Boardwalks and plank bridges could be built over seasonal bogs, with boulders for seating at strategic locations. Narrow trails are good; intimate. Some information on flora and fauna might be welcome – if vandals would leave them alone.

But to retain the wild nature of the hill, there should be no structures, benches or viewing platforms, the notes said.

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