Saturday, 28 March 2009

Remember Earth Day







It may not have the high profile corporate sponsors and marketing hype that Earth Hour does but Earth Day, celebrated every April 22, is the largest, most celebrated environmental event worldwide. More than 6 million Canadians join 1 billion people in over 170 countries in staging events and projects to address local environmental issues. Nearly every school child in Canada takes part in an Earth Day activity.

Unfortunately this important event has been lost in the media hoopla surrounding Earth Hour, which I commented on in a blog post a year ago.

Friday, 27 March 2009

How To Not Close A Trail While Building A Highway Over It – The Vienna Experience

Another in my Austrian Reflections Series.

One of my pet peeves has been the closure of the Queensway pedestrian and bike underpass from the summer of 2007-2009 (don't know if it will open at all this summer) while construction is being carried out on the western portion of the Queensway near Kanata.

They do things differently in Austria. We were on mountain bikes along a trail that followed the Marchfeldkanal on the outskirts of Vienna and came upon the construction of a highway over the trail. As you can see from the photographs nobody felt that there was a need to close the trail and indeed children (with parents) and bikes were explicitly allowed on the trail.

The sign in German translates (according to Google)to “Forbidden to enter the site - Parents are responsible for their children”, which I understand to mean “stay on the trail”.

(click photos to enlarge)








These are some other photos from along the trail.








Thursday, 26 March 2009

Trail Drainage In The Vienna Woods

This is a continuation of my Austrian Reflections Series.

These are photos of a trail drainage system used on mountain bike and hiking trails in the Vienna Woods. The above ground system makes it easier for trail users, or the rain, to clear silt out of the troughs than it would be to clear out culverts under the trail and you can still ride over the troughs..

(click photos to enlarge)







Having been fortunate to hike in the Vienna Woods I will take this opportunity to post some other photos of the mountain bike trails.







Monday, 23 March 2009

Blogging Break

Last week we were in Toronto visiting our daughters so I took a blogging break. Spring has arrived in Toronto and there was no snow to be seen in the city. With the warmer weather I should be back on my bike this week. The Fifth Column will probably become intermittent again. But I will try to do at least one posting a week.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Channeling Stephen Harper

"You know that recession we just had. The one where you lost your job, your home and your pension. It really wasn't that bad" - Stephen Harper March 10, 2011

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Making David Suzuki Look Like a Fool

Dr. David Suzuki is a respected scientist, world renowned environmentalist, and excellent communicator. So one would think that it would be difficult to make him look foolish. But the folks at powerWISE have found a way to do it.

I only hope that he is being well paid for the powerWISE commercials and putting the money to good use because, IMHO, they make him look like a fool.

Unfortunately the folks at powerWISE are very protective of their commercials so I was unable to embed a clip of the worst one, entitled “TV-Habitat” (the habitat of the common draft dodger), which makes me cringe every time I see it. The only copy of it I found on the web outside of the powerWISE site had been removed for a “terms of use violation”.

The powerwise ads can be viewed here.

My advice to Dr. Suzuki, never leave your image in the hands of the advertising industry again.

Monday, 9 March 2009

What's With Excommunication Anyway

I really do not understand the Roman Catholic Church policy of excommunicating persons for doing evil.

Does the Bible not teach that we are all sinners. Did Jesus not die on the cross to forgive the sins of believers. Do sinners not need the church to seek forgiveness and redemption.

The answer seems to be that only the most evil are excommunicated.

So, would that include the stepfather who had been raping his nine year old stepdaughter since age six. Apparently not. But it does include the doctors who undertook the necessary medical procedure (abortion) to save her life when she became pregnant with twins as a result of the rapes.

It seems it is the Roman Catholic Church that is the most evil.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Mayor's Task Force Misses The Point

According to the Ottawa Citizen

"The mayor's task force on governance found that city council does not operate effectively and cannot provide the strategic leadership the City of Ottawa needs because of systemic problems with governance," says the report from the panel, which includes former Carleton University president Richard Van Loon and is headed by University of Ottawa government expert David Zussman.
The Citizen article further states:
To combat this, the task force recommends creating an executive level in municipal government, the mayor and city councillors who chair various standing committees, to set a firm agenda.

Zussman said this group would then drive the city-wide political agenda at council, making it more likely that other councillors would take a larger view of the issues before deciding how to vote.
The mayor's task force misses the point, or perhaps it was supposed to miss the point. There is no structural problem. The city has functioned well in the past and will function well in the future. The problem will be fixed at the next election, or possibly sooner, depending on the verdict in the mayor's bribery trial.

The problem of lack of leadership and lack of vision is because the city has a mayor who has no clue about politics and leading a municipal government. It has been clear from the start when he refused to learn about the city administration or even attend a city council meeting before being elected.

It has cost the city dearly, especially when compared to what could have been if the voters had chosen differently and elected a proven leader knowledgeable and skilled in municipal politics with a long record of accomplishments.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Submission re: South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan Draft Trail Plan

This document is being submitted to the City of Ottawa South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan public consultation process.

If you attended the March 2, 2009 public meeting please let the city know your views on the plan. If you could not attend the meeting become informed and make your views known.

For more information, or to make your views known, please contact:

David Miller
Program Manager, Environmental Sustainability
City of Ottawa
4th floor, 110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 1J1
Phone: 613-580-2424, ext. 21447
Fax: 613-580-2459
E-mail: david.miller@ottawa.ca

You may also wish to let your city councillor know about your views.

Contact Information for City Councillors


Introduction

I am a lifelong environmentalist and outdoorsperson who hikes, mountain bikes, skis and snowshoes in the South March Highlands.

In this document “trail” will refer to natural rugged single track trails and “pathway” will refer to wide hard packed gravel-stone dust pathways. As there are no official trail names provided in the plan I will refer to trails according to the names on the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) Trail Map.

Reference Maps (click on maps to enlarge)

Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA) Trail Map



City of Ottawa Map of Proposed Trail System Annotated by Richard W. Woodley


(unfortunately the city's full colour-coded map of the proposed trails and pathways is not available to the public)


Overall Impressions of the Trail Plan

I have to say that the most important aspects of the plan are that it recognizes the principle of a shared trail system and the legitimacy of mountain biking as an activity on the trails. It also maintains the bulk of the existing trail system.

I do have concerns with some of the public perceptions out there and some calls for separate trail systems. My experience on the trails, whether on my bike or hiking, is that everyone shares the trails well with no problems.

Trillium Woods

The Trillium Woods Trail is currently a naturally rugged trail and a very enjoyable trail for beginner and intermediate level mountain bikers, as well as hikers. It would fit the yellow classification in the city's plan.

In my original submission to the city I stated:
As an environmentalist and serious hiker and mountain biker my first and primary concern is that the trails be kept in their natural rugged state and be retained as natural surface single track trails.
The Trillium Woods is described in the city's plan as the most environmentally important and sensitive part of the South March Highlands. That being the case I might have expected possible trail closures in that area. Indeed the Trillium Woods Trail has begun to widen and my recommendation would be for mitigation measures to be taken to restore the trail to its natural single track state.

However the draft plan proposes the most environmentally damaging option for the Trillium Woods Trail, and that is to turn it into a widened hard packed gravel-stone dust pathway.

The only possible reason for that is because of it's proximity to development and houses. As an environmentalist I find this to be unconscionable.

The Beaver Pond

The area along the Beaver Pond will have pathways.

I stated in my original submission:
There has also been the possibility of wheelchair access pathways suggested. Despite the potential benefits of this, I do not wish to see the natural ruggedness and wilderness-like nature of the protected area compromised. One possibility is to build such a pathway around the “Beaver Pond”. This would also provide a place for casual walkers to enjoy the forest without ending up on the rugged natural trails in their high heels or sandals.
Kanata Lakes

The remaining protected Kanata Lakes lands on the other side of Goulbourn Forced Road will also have pathways.

It will be sad to see the eventual loss of the natural trails in the old Kanata Lakes system but due to it's proximity to development and housing, it's distance from the main natural rugged trail system, and the small amount of area left and the desire to provide a balanced mix of trails and pathways, this may be a reasonable place to put pathways. To be honest, I really do not want to see the loss of these natural rugged trails but I am trying to be balanced and open minded here.

The Hydro Cut and New Pathway

The Hydro Cut is unsustainable as it is, being a mud hole for much of the hiking and biking season. It is appropriate to turn it into a pathway.

I have no comments on the new pathway at the end of the hydro cut.

Second Line Extension and Bear Claw Trail

The Second Line Extension was a forest road, although it has started to narrow in sections. I have no objections to it becoming a pathway.

Bear Claw Trail is a different matter. It is a wonderful fun beginner to intermediate level mountain bike and hiking trail. It would fit the yellow classification in the city's plan.

While I can accept the need for some easy pathways to serve all members of the public. I think what has been provided, including giving up all the natural rugged trails in the old Kanata Lakes System, is sufficient and another wonderful natural trail should not be sacrificed.

Trail Closures

It would have been nice to have some documentation on the reasons for the trail closures, though one can speculate that some of it was done to rationalize the system and eliminate duplicate parallel trails.

Closure of Easier Trails: Rockhopper Jr., Rockhopper Extension and M-Line (and Widening Bridges on Inner and Outer Thigh)

I can only speculate that these trails are being closed as a form of trail rationalization as they are relatively short sections of trail and overall the bulk of the trail system remains. M-Line may indeed be untenable due to its proximity to Terry Fox Drive (when built). However it is unfortunate as there is a limited amount of beginner level trails in the system.

As a mitigating measure, to increase the amount of beginner-friendly trails, I would propose that the Inner Thigh and Outer Thigh loops be made more beginner-friendly by widening the bridges to 24 inches, or eliminating them. There will still be sections of trail that are not beginner-friendly but that is the nature of natural trails and it provides an incentive to try something harder. However, the bridges are particularly intimidating to beginners because of their length and their narrowness.

Closure of the Southwestern Section of Rock Hopper

The plan proposes to close part of Rockhopper Trail, turning what was a loop trail into a dead end. Unless there is significant environmental reason (and none was given at the public meeting when I asked) it does not make sense to turn a loop trail into a dead end. This proposed trail closure needs to be rethought and the trail restored to its original loop. Incidentally the section of trail that is being closed is the easiest section of the trail.

Multiple Trails Combined Into One

There are a number of trails leading to Outback (Garter Belt, Ridgetop, Annex, Pasture and Gateway, etc.) where there are sections of separate trails running parallel and close to each other. While each of these trail does provide different terrain and riding experiences they are not all necessary to provide access to that part of the forest and I assume their conversion into one trail is based on the principle of trail rationalization.

Former Dark Side Trails

A number of trails that existed on former private property that has just recently been added to the city owned lands have been off limits for a number of years and were known as the Dark Side. The plan does not propose to reopen these trails but rather to close them. It would be useful to know the reasons for this decision. Without knowing that I cannot really support or oppose that decision.

Winter User Conflicts

As a cross-country skier I know that winter is the time when there are potential trail user conflicts, particularly with walkers who walk on the ski tracks making big holes that make skiing difficult.

Snowshoers tend to make their own separate trails, but even if they do go over the ski trails, they just flatten them rather than punching deep holes, making it still possible to ski the trail without too much difficulty.

Mountain bikers, on the other hand, tend to avoid the trails when they are skiable, because of the difficulty riding (and the fact that they would prefer to be skiing when the trails are skiable). Mountain bilkers prefer windows of opportunity when there is a freeze after a thaw (before more snow falls) and the trails are hard and frozen making ideal conditions for biking with studded tires but lousy conditions for skiing.

Public Education

The final, but perhaps most important part of the plan, should be public education on environmentally friendly and sustainable trail use, including respect for other trail users - share the trail. The education campaign should stress that trail users should stay on the designated trails. As well it should encourage trail users to avoid wet muddy trails but advise them to use the centre of the trail, not go alongside and widen it, if they do need to go through wet muddy sections.

Public education should also address the winter user conflicts and how to avoid them (don't walk on the ski tracks).

Signage at the trail heads should include large trail maps on the signs along with responsible trail use guidelines. As well pamphlets with a map of the trails and the guidelines should be available.

The Public Consultation Process: Lack of Information

In my response to the city's presentation at the April 30, 2008 Open House I stated:
Afterwards, I immediately went to the City of Ottawa website to see if I could review the maps and other documentation. However, as is usual whenever I go to the City of Website to look for planning or development information, I found it to be woefully inadequate.

It would be very useful if the public could access more details and background information on the City of Ottawa website in order to make better informed comments and suggestions.
The response I received from the city on May 12, 2008 was:
I noted your comment on the web site and I agree that we need to get materials there as we proceed with the process so I will be working to get material posted as soon as possible.
However nothing was posted and only recently very sparse information was posted on the City of Ottawa website at the link below.

City of Ottawa - South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan

None of the information or maps from the Open House or the recent presentation of the draft plan are available online. At the March 2, 2009 meeting I was assured again that they will look into making more information available on the website.

It is very difficult for a member of the public to participate meaningfully in this process without adequate information. In particular, not knowing any of the actual reasons for trail closures has left me having to speculate in preparing my response to the draft plan. This weakens the public consultation process, and some may argue renders it meaningless. I would not go that far but my ability to fully participate in the process has certainly been reduced by the lack of information available.

For more general comments see also:

Submission re: South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan

The South March Highlands - Kanata’s Outdoor Wonderland

For information on mountain biking in Ottawa see:

Ottawa Mountain Bike Association Web Site.

Monday, 2 March 2009

I'm Confused About Fighting In Hockey

According to The Code on CBC's The Fifth Estate almost everyone involved in professional hockey from the head of the NHL down believes that fighting is an important and integral part of the game. So why are there rules and penalties against it. And why are the rules and penalties so lax as to be ineffective.

There seems to be something just a little bit hypocritical about having purposefully ineffective rules against something that they claim to be an integral part of the game.