After having time to reflect on the March Open House and read over more carefully the Display Boards, that are now posted on the City of Ottawa website, I have further reflections.
Unfortunately there is still not the detailed information available on the website that would be required to do a real comprehensive analysis of the proposed trail plan.
The Proposed Trail Plan and the Environment
When this process first began my main concern was reports of overzealous environmentalists wanting to close off all access to the South March Highlands. Ironically, the opposite seems to be the problem at the moment – an apparent lack of concern (as far as I can see) from environmentalists over the proposals to denaturalize significant portions of natural rugged single track trail. The more I look at the trail map the more I realize just how extensive the proposed denaturalization is.
The most glaring and troubling proposal involves the Trillium Woods, which has been identified as the most environmentally significant and sensitive portion of the management area. In the Trillium Woods the plan calls for turning the narrow natural trails into 2-3 metre wide compacted granular surface stone dust paths. One can only ask what are they thinking. 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.
But the Trillium Woods is not the only part of the management area where the city plans to denaturalize narrow trails and turn them into wide hard packed paths as the map below shows.
Perhaps some compromise is necessary. And in that spirit I would propose that such paths be limited to Zone 3, the least significant environmental zone, and the zone that includes the area that attracted the broadest public interest, the Beaver Pond Area, and is thus, self-identified as the area where most people would want easy access.
In the more environmentally significant areas we need to do all we can to protect the natural environment, and that does not include building wide hard-packed paths through it.
As I have stated several times before on this subject in The Fifth Column:
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.I call on all Ottawa environmentalists to rally together to protect this natural area and it's natural rugged single track trails.
City of Ottawa - South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan
Brunton Report 2008 - South March Highlands
Brunton Report 2004 - South March Highlands
THE FIFTH COLUMN: Submission re: South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan Draft Trail Plan
THE FIFTH COLUMN: Submission re: South March Highlands Conservation Forest Management Plan