Sunday, 31 May 2009

Richard's GPS Trail Maps

My new site for posting my trail maps is up and running and I think it looks good. I have some background information posted plus links to all the existing maps.

I used Blogger's simplest template and I think it's a good fit for the project. It is a work in progress. Eventually all the maps will be moved so there are small versions viewable on the site and clicking on them brings up the full map. I hope to add more annotations to the maps along with trail descriptions and photos, and of course more maps.

Check it out at:

http://gpstrailmaps.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 28 May 2009

No More OC Transpo Strikes - Why

One sentence says it all:

"Acting Mayor Michel Bellemare, along with the city manager, solicitor, and OC Transpo general manager worked out the deal with the union’s local president Andre Cornellier and international representative Randy Graham over the last few weeks."

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Joy of Undocumented Trails

On the weekend we were hiking near the Lime Kiln and came across a trail that I was unaware of. We had skied or snowshoed along this route but thought it was just a winter route. Both ends of it are fairly well hidden so it was a fluke that we found it without tracks in the snow.

That, and the fact that I was exploring some other undocumented trails behind Stittsville last week, got me thinking about undocumented trails.

So what are undocumented trails. Well the simplest definition is trails without maps, or at least without official maps.

An internet search could not find any maps of, or references to, the Stittsville trails that I explored so I feel confident in considering them to be undocumented.

The trail near the Lime Kiln fits that description as it is not on the NCC official trail map. Neither is the one kilometre technical trail that is known to mountain bikers as the Lime Kiln Trail, although it was on an earlier version of the NCC map as an unnamed trail. The NCC designates the wide trail from parking lot P10 to Richmond Road as the “Lime Kiln Trail”.

Personally, one of the biggest joys of undocumented trails, besides riding an unknown trail for the first time and not knowing what I will find, is documenting them. I have always had a thing about maps and the ability to actually become a map maker is really rewarding. So I have spent the last few biking seasons starting to map all the western greenbelt trails. It is currently a work in progress. I plan to move my maps to a new home and add trail descriptions and eventually photographs. Watch for an announcement in the next few weeks.

Undocumented trails tend to be unofficial trails that were not planned, or built by, any official entity but created by trail users.

An architect once proposed that when designing open spaces pathways should not be planned in advance. Rather the space should be left open for users to walk across and the users of the space will create paths where they are best suited. The designers would then build the pathways were the users have walked.

In many ways that principle can be applied to trails. Often the users know best. Certainly the greenbelt is full of unofficial user created trails and these are some of the best trails in the system. Surprisingly the National Capital Commission (NCC), known for being overly bureaucratic, does not appear to have made any effort to close such trails, even placing signposts on some in the Old Quarry area.

However, the City of Ottawa, during the South March Highlands (SMH) Management Plan process, has proposed that many of the existing “unofficial” trails in the SMH be closed as part of the process of legitimizing the trail system. As far as I know, none of the closures are for specific environmental reasons but more a matter of rationalizing the trail system.

If past experience is any indicator I think it will be difficult to convince users to stop using trails they have used for years. I suspect the city hopes that user groups that have been involved in the SMH management plan process will try to convince their members not to use the closed trails. It remains to be seen how they will respond. So far it appears that everyone, including the city, consultants and user groups have been acting in good faith during this process and I believe the city hopes users groups will feel they have enough “ownership” of the result to support it. The fact is that most trail users, whether they are hikers, mountain bikers, or cross country skiers do not belong to organized groups, and those that do are not necessarily going to do their groups bidding.

Perhaps the best policy for the city to pursue would be to leave the trail system the way it has naturally evolved except for measures to address specific environmental concerns or improve the sustainability of the trail system.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Stittsville's Secret Trail System

click on map to enlarge

OK, it may be somewhat presumptuous of me to call it a secret trail system just because I was unaware of it. Actually, I knew there were trails back there as they connected to a trail/pathway that runs along the southwest edge of Stittsville that we ride on our hybrids. I always wondered where they went but I didn't expect them to be as extensive or as interesting.

The first section I checked out was the most southern section of trails. This includes sections that go over open grasslands and are not that interesting but, as anyone who has rode on grass will know, can be hard pedaling.

The most interesting trails went into the forest where some sections were marked with coloured ribbons. Parts of these trails were quite narrow with tree branches going into the trails, somewhat like old abandoned trails, except the ribbons suggest that they are possibly new trails that still need to be completely cleared. I followed the yellow trail till it seemed to disappear, then I noticed red ribbons and thought perhaps they just changed the colour of the ribbon. Later I ran into yellow ribbons again so I think I may just have lost the yellow trail and wandered onto the red trail. However, most of the trails do not have any ribbons or markings.

There are lots of intersecting trails in there. On the map you will notice numbered WayPoints that indicate intersections. If you do not see an intersection on the map it is because I have to go back and ride/map the intersecting trail.

At the northern end of the trail system are a couple of trails that go into areas where there are wooden structures and large 4X8 wood sheets. These look like they may be set up for paintballers to hide behind except that there are no signs of spilled paint, so maybe they are just play forts. It really is great for the neighbourhood kids to live in a small town and be able to go off by themselves and play in the bush. But then, I grew up in what was considered an urban neighbourhood, and we had rocks, and railway tracks, and a creek with quicksand, and even a slag dump to play around unsupervised.

In the middle section is a long trail heading towards Hazeldean Road. Somewhere past WayPoint 13 the trail deteriorates and at one point you realize you are no longer following a trail but are following deer tracks and are in the middle of dense bush struggling with your bike. That is when you do not want your GPS to fail because it is the only thing you have to lead you back to civilization. Luckily it led me to a fence along Hazeldean Road, where fortunately there was enough room under the wire to crawl through and push the bike through.

There really are some interesting features within this system, including a trail that runs along a creek, and a real interesting causeway/bridge over the trail with another alternative narrower more technical/difficult bridge a few feet further along.

There are quite a few sections where I had to walk my bike, not because the trail surface was technical but, to avoid being speared by tree branches growing into the trails. There were also some wet/muddy sections that could do with some trail work, but most of the trail work would consist of cutting back trees and brush along the trails.

This land is outside the urban boundary of Ottawa and from what I can tell from the Ottawa Zoning Map is partly zoned RU (Rural Countryside) and partly EP3 (Environmental Protection). I do not know who owns the land but there is certainly potential for a really fun greenbelt-like trail system here with a little/lot of work.

I hope to publish a complete map of the trail system (ride at your own risk) as it is as soon as I get the opportunity to ride and map all (or most of) the interconnecting trails.

click on map to enlarge

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Why The Religious Right Should Embrace Homosexuality

The religious right claims to believe that homosexuality is a form of sexual deviation.

The religious right claims to believes that god created sex only for the purpose of procreation and nothing, not abortion, not birth control, should prevent procreation.

So, if god created sex solely for the purpose of procreation, acts that cannot lead to procreation cannot be considered sexual. So while what homosexuals do in the privacy of their own homes may bring mutual pleasure, intimacy and bonding they cannot be considered sexual and thus not sexually deviant.

The religious right also claims that a homosexual society would be doomed because there would be no procreation. They know better. They know that homosexuals know how procreation works. They know that homosexuals want families and want the species to continue.

In a homosexual society gays and lesbians would ensure that by having sex together for the purpose of procreation and only for the purpose of procreation, There would be no birth control and no abortion because whenever people had sex it would only be for procreation.

Sex for procreation and only for procreation. It would be the religious right's nirvana.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Gatineau Parkway: A Cyclists Dream or A Drivers Nightmare

In an earlier Fifth Column I stated:

A few weeks ago I was driving home from mountain biking along the Gatineau Parkway when I noticed just how little room there was for cyclists and motor vehicles to share the road. If I wanted to pass a cyclist I had to hug the yellow line, a dangerous thing to do if traffic is approaching me and only possible if the oncoming traffic sees the cyclist on my side and moves over to give me room, and impossible if there are motor vehicles and cyclists on both sides of the road. At one point I just had to follow behind the cyclist till it was safe to pass, fortunately he was moving at about 40 km/hr.

This can create very dangerous situations, especially if there are impatient drivers. Drivers should, however, be aware that, although used as such, the parkway is not a commuter route, it is a scenic route for tourists and residents to use to enjoy the park scenery and has a speed limit of 60 km/hr.

In many ways the Gatineau Parkway is a wonderful route for cyclists, scenic, winding and hilly. It could be a world class cycling route and a major tourist attraction and economic benefit to the region, if the safety problem was solved.
The National Capital Commission and The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are also aware of the safety problems and they have announced their solution, according to an article in the Ottawa Citizen which states:
Don't ride your bicycle in double file, in "packs" of more than 15 or speed through stop signs this summer.

The National Capital Commission and police are cracking down on cyclists and motorists in Gatineau Park as part of a share the road campaign prompted by the increasing number of traffic violations in the park each year.


RCMP Const. Suzanne Lefort said cyclists who ride in double file or in groups of more than 15 face $95 fines. Cyclists who run through stop signs face $15 fines, plus the loss of three demerit points if they have a driver's licence. Also, cyclists were warned about speeding last year, but this year they will be ticketed.

Drivers who exceed the speed limit by more than 40 km/h could have their vehicles impounded for seven days.
This has led to considerable reaction from the cycling community, including Letters to The Editor from Mike Abraham, Matt Surch, Alex MacKenzie and Avery Burdett.

Matt Surch describes the Gatineau Parkway as a road cyclists haven:
Cycling is a healthy practice with a rich tradition in the Ottawa Valley, home of the country's two oldest bike clubs, dating back to 1882. More than just a sport, cycling affords pleasurable movement through the city and its surroundings.

On any given day, hundreds of cyclists, many in their retirement years, seek the challenge of the hilly Gatineau Parkway to recreate, to live, on the bike. Many users ride the parkway more than once a week, for years.

Some ride alone, others in groups. By riding side-by-side, conversation flows. Other groups with a more competitive bent enjoy the parkway for its promise of training gains and the opportunity to practise road tactics such as drafting, working together as a group.

Yes, road cycling is in fact a team sport; working together to cover ground faster is the magic of cycling.

The parkway is special -- it is a haven for cyclists because it is a parkway; low car speeds are appropriate. Cyclists outnumber any other user group in the summer, including drivers. We feel like the parkway is our oasis in an otherwise hostile cycling environment.

Unfortunately, the NCC does not acknowledge cyclists on the parkway as a recreational user group. Instead, we are being treated just like traffic.
As the last quoted sentence indicates, the NCC does not see it that way, and that is the crux of the matter – should the NCC Parkway be seen as just another commuter road or as a recreational route for cyclists.

Of course the Gatineau Parkway is not just another commuter route. You don't close down a commuter route for a whole season, banning cars, and let a recreational user group use it as their own. But that is what is done with the Gatineau Parkway in the winter for cross country skiers. That does not stop people from using their vehicles to access the ski hills or trails or other recreational facilities. And it certainly contributes to tourism in the National Capital region and the local economy.

The Gatineau Parkway already has the hilly terrain that serious road cyclists love to ride and train on. So why not apply the same logic to the summer season, ban cars from the Gatineau Parkway, and take advantage of an even greater opportunity to turn the National Capital Region into an international destination for cyclists, not to mention providing a wonderful opportunity for local cyclists to develop their skills. It is such opportunities and facilities that produce Olympic Gold Medallists.

Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day – Time To Organize

If ever there was a time for workers to organize it is now.

As a proud former member of USW Local 6500 I present these videos in honour of International Workers Day.