Crothers' Woods, a favourite hang out of birders in the Don Valley, has been attracting a different kind of "wildlife" recently - the two-wheeled variety ridden by stunt-loving mountain bikers. The steep rises, undulations and sharp curves make the rare patch of Carolinian forest behind the Loblaws near Millwood primo territory for trick-chasing "free-ride" bikers looking to push themselves, literally, to the edge.
But the city and volunteers with the Bring Back the Don task force are certainly not amused by the thrill-seeking cyclists, citing mountain biking as a main contributor to erosion - which can lead to streams loaded with sediment - and general degradation in the valley.
A number of illegal trails, along with makeshift obstacle courses including bridges, teeter-totters and balance beams built by riders eager to test their technical skills, have sprung up throughout Crothers'. This past spring, obstacles put up by riders were torn down.
Enter the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), which was brought in by the recently-formed Don Valley Trail Users Club to mediate with the city.
IMBA gave more than two dozen volunteers lessons in how to improve the sustainability of trails in Crothers' two weekends ago. Strategies include fixing ruts, correcting drainage problems, rerouting trails and building water crossings.
Along with trail workshops, plans are also afoot to map and provide signage for existing trails, set rules for their use and establish a stewardship team to maintain them.
Whether these efforts and new rules will deter riders from building more obstacles remains to be seen, given the recent explosion of free-ride mountain biking.
"Clearly, there's a safety issue here that we consider extremely important for the mountain bikers themselves and also for people who are walking through the area," says Garth Armour, natural environment coordinator with the city. Keri McMahon, a natural environment specialist with the city and a volunteer with Bring Back the Don, says there's also been discussion with the Trail Users Club and others about the need for a designated stunt park. "It's sort of in the seed-of-an-idea stage at this point," she says.