Rock Gardens Park – Rock gardens trail – Weigh scales trail

Recognizing an inner-city jewel of a destination.

Lines: Green is smaller trails, pink is weigh scale and rock garden trails,
yellow is main trails, and red is motorized trails.
Shaded: Green is Paddy's Pond/Ice Lake Park, and
bright green is proposed Rock Gardens Park.

February 22, 2014. Looking more closely at how land divisions happened and how best to bring trail into the area, it seems that a loop trail around the lake and would be good to make trails work nicely in this area of high cliffs. See map to the right. This map shows an overlay of contours from the City's GIS page. The pink circle around the lake is a suggestion of how the trail could get down the hill, go around the lake and connect to the public-right-of way trail shown as orange line. Further summer exploration is needed.

February 8, 2014. The city trail task force chose a trail route in this area. Route should follow through woods since in the future the Ice Lake Road will possibly become an industrial road. Watch for recommendations as Alaska Highway upgrade happens. At a minimum, brush out a trail to join up with road behind through weigh scale.

November 13, 2012. Walk to the Rock Gardens? It's about a 2-hour, 9-km walk for thousands of Whitehorse walkers (in the above map, a Hillcrest walker gets a 9-km walk; looks somewhat similar for downtown, Riverdale, Copper Ridge, Granger.) Some basic premises: we want to be encouraging a more active lifestyle; walking is an inexpensive activity; and, walkers like nice walks with destinations and loop trails. Destinations can be a playground, a store, a nice ridge trail, a friend's house, or in this case, a geological feature and a pond.

With the recent new OCP and zoning changes, as well as changes in the Yukon Gardens area and the new parking lot, this is a good time to look at this area. We should continue land designation changes and make the Rock Gardens a city Park, do some trail maintenance work, and protect the access trails and corridors — the Rock Gardens trail is a very lovely walking trail. A city that values walkability shouldn't require people to drive to the Rock Gardens. Some background...

The rock gardens is a neat local place just awaiting broader community recognition. Easily accessible on foot by the above-the-airport residents, it only needs a little love and care to become an important destination. With the proposed ball diamond stairs across from Robert Service Campground, it will become an attractive walk for downtown and Riverdale walkers using the Airport Perimeter Trail.

The rock gardens are a destination for rock climbers; also watch this video. From Yukon Bouldering:

The Rock Gardens is the closest bouldering area to downtown Whitehorse. Although the area is known primarily as a roped climbing spot, there are a few fun boulders with good, featured moderate to hard problems. Within walking distance of downtown, this area has probably seen more traffic than any other and is probably the only area where you are likely to bump into other climbers on any given evening.

The 1994 Parks and Recreation Master Plan recommended designating the rock gardens as a nature park. We should follow this recommendation. But it's meaningless to look at designating a city park and trails without understanding land ownership and zoning for the area, almost 20 years after the recommendation.

Transparent overlay is Map 17: Lobird, from 2012 Zoning By-law.

The map shows the trail leaving the PG-zoned Paddy's Pond Park and passing through an area designated as FP before getting into the CH-zoned and PR-zoned rock gardens. This trail needs to have a PG-zoned corridor designation to protect it from future development.

Engineering drawing, Yukon Gardens Subdivision.

Let's look closely at the rock gardens itself. The area around the pond is currently zoned CH - highway commercial and is part of the Yukon Gardens Subdivision. During the switch from the Yukon Garden's botanical project to a highway commercial subdivision, 2 special lots were created. They are the 10% Public Use Land Dedication (PULD) that's required in all subdivisions; they cover some of the rock garden, and include rock walls, the pond and a 6-m wide access corridor from the Metropolit Lane.

The area zoned PR is zoned PR - parks and recreation. While "park" is not defined by the city, one day they will address "parks" and part of that process should be community-decided planning before allowing spot applications for things like eating and drinking establishments as PR zoning allows.

One important topic for discussion is safety. Recent developments in the new subdivision removed the protective fence along part of the upper trail. The new rock gardens parking lot on Hamilton Blvd. invites visitors. There's a trail down to the lake at the bottom, still with a private property sign and fence. The trail down should be marked and made safe for a wide variety of visitors to the area.

The pond should be interpreted. It will possibly have unique vegetation from the days of the original Yukon Gardens botanical project. To be a strong destination, the pond may need a boardwalk. Likewise, a geological story should be told about how the spot came to be created. It's probable that there's an exciting glacial story to be told.