Can Divine Intervention Save The South March Highlands

It appears that Ottawa City Council does not have the political will to stand up to the developers and save the South March Highlands. Indeed, City Council does not appear to even have the political will to stand up to City staff.

So it is now left to divine intervention, and by divine intervention I mean higher levels of government. I have attempted to get the National Capital Commission to act by emailing NCC CEO Marie Lemay, who has shown political will in other areas.

So far, my first email, here, as well as my follow-ups below have had no success.

TO: National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay
FROM: Richard W. Woodley
RE: Saving the South March Highlands - URGENT ACTION REQUIRED

Dear Ms. Lemay

I am writing to you again due to the fact that recent decisions by Ottawa City Council have made it evident that they simply do not have the political will to save the South March Highlands from development and destruction (even as many questions regarding the developers fulfilment of development conditions are unanswered and the legitimacy of the environmental assessment processes followed is uncertain and new archeological evidence has been discovered).

Indeed, as you read this, the chainsaws may already have started to destroy the Beaver Pond Forest. If not, it's destruction is imminent barring an immediate intervention from a higher level of government.

At the same time, other parts of the South March Highlands are moving through the development process and each day action is not taken to save the remaining SMH lands we risk the destruction of more of it.

The community has organized itself and waged a valiant battle but simply does not have the financial or legal resources, such as expropriation, necessary to save it.

These are resources and powers that the National Capital Commission does have. The NCC also has you. And I have to tell you that since your appointment I have been very impressed with the leadership and vision you have shown, particularly regarding cycling issues. You have shown more vision and leadership than the vast majority of elected political leaders in this community.

The community, and the South March Highlands, needs you to show that kind of vision, leadership and political will to save this environmental and cultural heritage jewel of the National Capital Region.

For the sake of this precious land the community needs the NCC to expedite the decision making process to acquire the remaining undeveloped SMH lands through purchase or expropriation.

I implore you to make this a top priority of the National Capital Commission and to do all you can to halt further development in the South March Highlands until these lands can be brought into public ownership and protected for posterity.


Richard W. Woodley
Kanata, Ontario

TO: National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay
FROM: Richard W. Woodley
RE: Aboriginal Archeological Site in Beaver Pond Forest May Be Destroyed

Dear Ms. Lemay

I apologize for writing to you again so soon before you can fully address my previous emails but time is running out for the Beaver Pond Forest.

The developer, KNL/Urbandale, has made it known that they plan to clear cut the forest in early January. Not only is the worse time possible for wildlife, particularly hibernating species, but it is also before new archaeological concerns can be properly addressed.

Serious information has been brought to both the developer and the City of Ottawa's attention regarding sites of aboriginal cultural heritage, including a possible burial site, but this information is not being given the attention it deserves.

As the National Capital Commission (NCC) has a role, even a responsibility, in protecting, not only Canada's natural heritage but also it's cultural heritage, I wanted to bring this to your attention immediately.

The following email from Paul Renaud of the South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc. to Ottawa City Council outlines the matters of archeological concern:
Subject: Missing Info on Dec 15 Staff Presentation To Council
To members of City Council,

This is to advise you that the presentation made by staff on Dec 15, 2010 appears to be incomplete. In particular the 2 slides on archaeology do not contain the following important facts regarding the Beaver Pond Forest in the South March Highlands.

The Ministry of Tourism and Culture has said that their role is simply to review the studies provided to them. The Minister of Culture said that their prior approval was based on the info available in 2004 and that any requirement for further study falls under the authority of the City.

Some might wonder if it is disingenuous for staff to stretch this interpretation to mean that the MTC sees no merit in Dr. McGhee’s review. That was NOT what the Minister said and given that the Minister’s letter did not even mention Dr. McGhee, it is difficult to understand how this could even be implied by the attached letter.

Under KNL’s Condition 86 of subdivision approval, and in accordance with the Planning Act, the City may reasonably request that any study be redone if they have a reasonable basis for doing so. Condition 57 specifically requires KNL to perform an Archaeological Assessment – to the satisfaction of the City – as well as to the satisfaction of the MTC. It also requires that “no demolition, grading or other disturbances shall take place until any archaeological resource conservation concerns have been addressed.”

It is evident that a reasonable basis exists in light of all the NEW evidence that has surfaced since KNL’s original study was done in 2004:

1. Discovery of a significant find by Ken Swayze less than 1 km away Richardson Ridge in 2006 that was refuted by the developer and is currently being disputed in court. This site was previously confirmed as 10,000 years old by Dr. Muller-Beck, Professor Emeritus of Paleohistory and Archaeology of Hunting Cultures, when he visited the site in 2007;

2. Scientific discrediting of the thoroughness of the KNL study provided by Dr. McGhee, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and past president Canadian Archaeological Association, in June 2010.  The MTC has expressed no opinion on this review;

3. Aboriginal declaration in August 2010 by the most senior Algonquin Elder, William Commanda, that the area is significant to his people. This is the same Elder who was granted the Keys to the City of Ottawa out of respect that the city has for his position and for his contribution to preserving Ottawa’s cultural heritage;

4. Discovery of a similar significant site at the same elevation less than 1 km away on Huntmar Ridge in July 2010. This has been reported to Jim Mountain but to-date nothing has been done to evaluate this site because the city has not allocated funds for such purposes – despite its obligation to do so under the Ontario Heritage Act;

5. Discovery of the stone circle in Beaver Pond Forest in 2010. The protection of the medicine wheel site will only protect the immediate vicinity (a few meters on either side of it).

Our concern is that it is highly likely that there are several other undiscovered sites nearby that may be destroyed if KNL/Urbandale is allowed to proceed.  This view is substantiated by the City’s own assessment in its cultural resource database that the area is high in archaeological resource potential. In fact, Mr. Mountain has wisely proposed that the City should execute an archaeological master plan for the entire Carp Ridge, including the South March Highlands.

Mary Jarvis at Urbandale has stated in the press that they will get their archaeologist to do another walk through the forest, however, what can he possibly see through the snow? It appears that KNL also plans to use the same archaeologist whose 2004 summer study effectively ignored pre-contact archaeology, according to Dr. McGhee. One might question why he would do a more thorough job in winter?

Meanwhile, city staff are inexplicably refusing to acknowledge that the KNL study needs to be redone - despite overwhelming evidence that they should do so.

It is very important for the City to insist that, in accordance with Condition 57, no site alteration (such as cutting trees and blasting) be permitted until a full and proper archaeological re-evaluation of this site has been done in the spring once the snow is gone. We strongly recommend the participation of first nations when this survey is done.

Is it too much to expect that our city responds to facts and acts responsibly on them to protect cultural heritage?

Paul Renaud
South March Highlands – Carp River Conservation Inc.
The Following extract from an article in the Kanata Kourier-Standard also outlines the archaeological concerns:
Beaver Pond burial ground?
Residents call for new archeological assessment


The discovery of a possible 10,000-year-old aboriginal burial site is unlikely to halt or even delay a KNL subdivision slated for construction on land north of the Beaver Pond, said Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson. “It’s not a way of saving the lands,” Wilkinson said.

Steve Hulaj, president of the Kanata Lakes Community Association and a leader of the Coalition to Save the March Highlands, discovered a circle of stones in the Beaver Pond forest a few months ago and took a video of it with his iPhone. When he brought it to a Christmas party last Saturday, Dec. 11, he showed it to one of his wife’s friends, John McCormick, an advisor for the aboriginal affairs secretariat for Parks Canada. Hulaj said McCormick told him it could be a burial circle and should be assessed.

Hulaj has called on the city to require KNL Developments to re-do an archeological assessment for the site. Requiring another archeological assessment wouldn’t necessarily prevent construction, Wilkinson said. It would just delay it and lead to more assessment. “Someone should take a look at it,” she said. “The community is looking really hard to find ways to save the land and I applaud them for their effort, but I can only do so much here.”

It’s the second time the group has pushed for KNL to re-do the archeological assessment. In August, Paul Renaud of the Coalition to Save the South March Highlands said the archaeological study of the lands prepared for KNL in 2003 fails to consider the heritage of the Algonquin Nation

Robert McGhee, a former curator of Arctic archaeology at the Canadian Museum of Civilization, said the 2003 KNL report ignores the land’s archaeological potential.

“The major problem with this report – and I see it as a fatal flaw – lies in the fact that is statements regarding prehistoric land use appear to be based on an assumption that the local geography and physiography described at the time of European settlement continued unchanged from the ancient past,” said McGhee in written comments about the 2003 KNL archaeological assessment. McGhee said the report ignores the fact the region underwent significant physical changes since the last Ice Age over 9,000 years ago.

In August, Algonquin elder William Commanda called for a stop to development in the area: “We are adding our voices to call for a halt of the expansion of Terry Fox Drive and housing development at this ancient sacred site,” said the 96-year-old Algonquin elder and spiritual elder. “This special area is also a place of extremely important archaeological significance to the nomadic Algonquins of the Ottawa River watershed and beyond,” he said. “Evidence has recently emerged regarding its occupation by our ancestors 10,000 years ago.”

“This was obviously a very significant island, which we’ve allowed to be developed,” Hulaj said. “We’re missing the opportunity to potentially have something significant within this forest, which one of the most noted and experienced archeologists in the country has said to the city, ‘You need to require a new archeological
The full article can be read here:


Doctor Robert McGhee's review of the developer’s archaeological study can be found here:


As well, further information on possible archaeological sites within the South March Highlands including The Video of the Stone Circles found within the Beaver Pond Forest is here.


I trust that the National Capital Commission will be concerned that the developer wants to clear cut the forest before these archaeological findings can be properly assessed and will do whatever it can to stop the clear cutting of the forest until a proper assessment can be done.

Richard W. Woodley

Who do you think should intervene to save the South March Highlands.


In the United Kingdom Peaceful Protest Is Now Terrorism

From Democracy Under Fire:

Here’s one example of the intimidation of peaceful protest by the young that is happening all over Britain. Nicky Wishart is a 12-year-old self-described “maths geek” who lives in the heart of David Cameron’s constituency. He was gutted when he found out his youth club was being shut down as part of the cuts: there’s nowhere else to hang out in his village. He was particularly outraged when he discovered online that Cameron had said, before the election, that he was “committed” to keeping youth clubs open. So he did the right thing. He organized a totally peaceful protest on Facebook outside Cameron’s constituency surgery. A few days later, the police arrived at his school. They hauled him out of his lessons, told him the anti-terrorism squad was monitoring him and threatened him with arrest.

The message to Nicky Wishart and his generation is very clear: don’t get any fancy ideas about being an engaged citizen. Go back to your X-Box and X-Factor, and leave politics to the millionaires in charge.
Original Source: Johann Hari - The Independent


South March Highlands - An Open Letter

As well as being posted on my blog, The Fifth Column ( http://the5thc.blogspot.com/ ), this is being sent to:

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson ( Jim.Watson@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor Allan Hubley ( Allan.Hubley@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor Marianne Wilkinson ( Marianne.Wilkinson@ottawa.ca )
Ottawa City Councillor David Chernushenko ( David.Chernushenko@ottawa.ca )
National Capital Commission CEO Marie Lemay ( Marie.Lemay@ncc-ccn.ca )
National Capital Commission Review of the 1996 Greenbelt Master Plan ( info@ncc-ccn.ca )
Norm Sterling, MPP, Carleton--Mississippi Mills ( norm.sterling@pc.ola.org )
Dalton McGuinty, MPP, Ottawa South, Ontario Premier ( dmcguinty.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org )
Gordon O'Connor, MP, Carleton—Mississippi Mills ( OConnor.G@parl.gc.ca )
Paul Dewar, MP, Ottawa Centre ( Dewar.P@parl.gc.ca )

Note all images in this post may be clicked on to be viewed larger

I am writing to you because we have a short window of opportunity to save much of what is arguably the most important area of environmental importance and cultural heritage within the City of Ottawa. While the South March Highlands is well known for its environmental significance, as home to a great number of species of animal and plant life, many of them endangered, recent research has also discovered that it may be just as important a site of archaeological significance, particularly in relation to our country's first peoples.

The preceding map, from the 2008 Brunton report, shows the boundary of the South March Highlands. The Google Earth view shows the lands that have already been developed and the blocked in green sections indicate the lands that are owned by the City of Ottawa and protected. The rest of the lands are privately owned, and though some are zoned Environment Protection history has taught us that all the privately owned land is at risk of being developed and at risk of environmental and archaeological destruction.

It is not the purpose of this letter to document why the South March Highlands should be saved or to reiterate the broad public support within the Ottawa area and all over Canada for saving these precious lands. That has already been well done and you have likely already seen or received such documentation. I do not wish to repeat all of that here but I will be attaching a document that provides a quick and easy overview of the significance of the South March Highlands. I will also provide links at the end of this submission to further resources on the South March Highlands.

I am writing to all of you together because saving what has not yet been developed in the South March Highlands is going to take political will at all levels of government. The City of Ottawa and the National Capital Commission will be key players, but the province and federal government will also have important roles, especially in regards to funding. This land is important and precious to all residents of Ontario and all citizens of Canada.

Time is of the essence as development plans are already underway for an important section of these lands, known as the Beaver Pond Forest, and the developer is waiting for the first opportunity to clear cut the lands, even as many questions regarding the developers fulfilment of development conditions are unanswered and the legitimacy of the environmental assessment processes followed are uncertain.

The only long term solution to save these lands for posterity is to bring them under public ownership. Fortunately, I understand that the National Capital Commission, during it's Greenbelt Master Plan Review, is considering adding the South March Highlands to the Greenbelt. There is where the federal government needs to step in to assure the NCC that the funds will be available to purchase or expropriate the remaining undeveloped privately held lands in the South March Highlands. This is an imperative part of the solution.

The NCC must also expedite this part of the Greenbelt review process so that as much land as possible can be acquired. The longer the wait the more opportunity there is to "develop the lands", that is to clear-cut the forest, blast the geology and otherwise destroy the land.

Ideally, in the meantime there would be a moratorium on all development in the South March Highlands, supported and legislated by the municipal, provincial and federal governments.

Until such a moratorium can be put in place the City of Ottawa, which controls the development process, must do all that it can to prevent further development from proceeding.

The most important thing that the City of Ottawa can do, is to do what it should be doing anyway, which is to ensure that all environmental measures, including wetland and watershed provisions, and cultural heritage/archeological processes are fully and properly undertaken and that all approvals are properly in place before any development is allowed to take place.

The City must also ensure that all developers have complied with all requirements of subdivision agreements and other approvals before allowing a single tree to be cut, rock to be blasted or land to be bulldozed.

The City can also act to assure the public of their good faith by offering to purchase or expropriate the lands under imminent threat of development. There is where the provincial government needs to step in to assure the City of Ottawa that the funds will be available to purchase or expropriate these threatened lands. This is also an imperative part of the solution.

Of course the first thing the City of Ottawa needs to do is to provide an opportunity for City Councillors to get a firm understanding of all the issues surrounding the South March Highlands, particularly new City Councillors. The best way to do that would be to have the matter referred to committee where public input can be provided, before allowing any further development measures to take place on any South March Highlands lands.

If all levels of government work together and show leadership and political will we can save the South March Highlands. The people that you represent expect no less.


Richard W. Woodley, Bridlewood, Kanata, Ontario ( richardw.woodley@gmail.com )

Further resources on the South March Highlands

South March Highlands Overview (attached)

Save Ottawa's South March Highlands

Ottawa's Great Forest

I want to save the land North of Beaver Pond Park in Kanata Ontario Facebook Group

The Fifth Column SMH posts

The Fifth Column SMH Management Plan posts

Virtual Nonsense (Paul Renaud) SMH posts

South March Highlands Advocacy

South March Highlands Stewardship Plan

Appendix: South March Highlands Overview


Generation Inspired - Let Capitalism Fail

No comment required.

However, I cannot help but comment as I watch this and think about how we are supposed to react to the international response to the economic crisis and the measures being taken to save capitalism from collapse. What is happening is exactly what Karl Marx predicted except that he did nor foresee the use of a form of socialism for the rich to save capitalism. As governments world wide use austerity measures against workers to bail out the banks and corporations that have exploited them for years we are supposed to sit back and take it because there is no alternative.

But, there is an alternative. Let history happen. Let capitalism fail and build a new society from the ashes of the old.


Has Wikileaks Gone Off Track

If I recall correctly, it seems to me, that the original idea of Wikileaks was to provide an outlet for whistle-blowers who wanted to draw attention to government wrongdoing by releasing the documents that prove it.

Now it seems that the idea is that no information, whether government or corporate, should be confidential and that they will publish anything and everything leaked to them regardless of the motives or consequences.

And many seem to believe that they deserve the unquestioning support of all progressives. I'm not so sure about that.


Blue Wall of Pork Circles The Wagons

As Ottawa Police come under attack for repeated acts of brutality, rather than condemning the perpetrators, the Ottawa Police Association goes after the judges who have condemned the atrocities.

As the Ottawa Citizen reports:

The association is now looking at the possibility of filing a complaint into the comments made by Justice Richard Lajoie, who brought attention to officers’ mistreatment of suspects and prisoners when he dismissed criminal charges against Stacy Bonds, who had been charged with assaulting police.

Lajoie considered video recordings of Bonds being manhandled and strip-searched in the cellblocks at Ottawa’s downtown police station, and said he didn’t want to play any part in the “travesty” of the case against her. He called her treatment “an indignity towards a human being.”

Boucher wrote in the e-mail to his members that Lajoie’s comments drove a wedge between the police and the community. He wrote that the union leadership is consulting with its lawyers; it’s not clear to whom a complaint would be filed.
It is actions like these, the brutality by police officers themselves and their association attacking the judges who speak up against police brutality, that drives "a wedge between the police and the community", not the judges standing up for innocent members of the public. This "circle the wagons" Blue Wall of Silence is what that alienates the public from the police that should be protecting them, not brutalizing them.


What is Really Scary is ...

Some people will support the police whatever they do. When I saw the recent CBC poll I was disturbed, but then when I saw the CFRA poll I was disgusted.

CBC Poll
- Did the Ottawa police officers go too far in their dealings with Stacy Bonds?

Yes 88.99%

No 8.93%

Undecided 2.08%

CFRA Poll - Should Ontario’s Attorney General resign after the province said it supports the decision made by crown prosecutors to proceed with a case against Stacey Bonds?

Yes, it’s an injustice and a travesty that the case went ahead in spite of how she was treated by police 60.3%

No, just because Bonds was not convicted doesn’t mean the decision to proceed was wrong 36.3%

Other 3.27%

Ottawa Citizen story

What I realized is that, indeed, some people will support the police no matter what they do. These are people who think the courts are too soft and that the police never arrest anyone that isn't guilty. These people think that if someone is beat up by the police they probably have it coming to them.

These are the same type of people who supported the right wing law and order blame the scapegoats German equivalent of the Tea Party in the 1930s.

These people are very scary and they are growing in numbers, egged on by people like Glenn Beck and Lowell Green. We must speak up against them.


The Fifth Columnist is Getting a New Camera for Christmas

My first serious camera was a Konica Autoreflex T3 35 MM SLR that I purchased in the early 1970s and used for over 25 years. It cost around $300, but I spent well over $1000 on it including lenses, the most expensive being a $500 80-200 MM zoom lens. I have always been a big lens guy shooting mainly landscape and wildlife. I also had a 2X converter that gave me a maximum focal length of 400 MM. Of course, with the large aperture required at that zoom and the lack of any form of stabilization, I could really only use the combination with a tripod on a sunny day.

My daughter still has the Konica and it was her main camera till she got a digital SLR a year ago, but she still likes to shoot film occasionally.

I got my first digital camera in 1999, and again I went for the big zoom. The $1,500 Sony Mavica FD-91 was one impressive looking camera for it's time. The 14X zoom on the Mavica was huge, a 35 MM equivalent of 37-518 MM and with Sony's Steady Shot image stabilization system it could be hand held at the full zoom. The camera was unique in that it used 3.5 inch floppy disks for image storage and though it was under a megapixel it produced decent 8X10 prints, even though the experts claimed that was not possible. It was a large camera but I was used to the size and feel of an SLR and preferred it over smaller digital cameras.

The Mavica became my daughter's first digital camera when I upgraded.

By 2005 a sub megapixel camera was pretty well considered obsolete and after 5 years I decided it was time to upgrade again. By now digital cameras were becoming serious and digital SLRs were available. However one of the main reasons I went to a digital camera with a long zoom was to avoid the hassle of changing multiple lenses and the weight and bulk of carrying them hiking. So I decided on the Panasonic Lumix FZ20 with a 12X 36-432 MM stabilized zoom lens.

The FZ20, at a cost of about $1000 (with a bit more for an extra battery and memory cards), was a big improvement over the Mavica and takes great photos and I am sure it would do me well for many years to come.

However with all things electronic and digital the time comes when you have to decide whether it is worthwhile to upgrade to a newer improved model with more features. After 6 years it looks like it is about time to upgrade again. This time I am looking at the Panasonic Lumix FZ100.

The Lumix FZ100 is a 14 megapixel camera with a 25-600 MM 24X stabilized zoom with full HD video capability, rather than the crappy tiny Quicktime video of the FZ20. Shooting at 3 megapixels, the top of the zoom range is an effective 1200 MM lens - WOW. The awesome zoom and full HD video capability are the main features that made me decide that now is the time to upgrade, but the camera also has impressive burst shooting capabilities and a whole slew of improvements over the FZ20.

The cost has gone down as well to about $550, but an extra battery and SD cards might add an extra $200 or so. So it looks like that will be under the tree for me this Christmas.


Fewer Politicians - Less Democracy

Everybody loves democracy and hates politicians. It doesn't make sense but it's a fact and it's what drives ideas like Mike Harris's "Fewer Politicians Act" which created megacities and recent proposals to reduce the size of Ottawa City Council.

But what does it really mean. Well it means less representation and more work for the people's representatives. Properly performed, a politician's job is already a 24 hour a day job. The more people a politician has to represent the less time he can spend representing each voter/taxpayer.

In municipal politics what that means is that elected representatives have to depend more on city staff for information and advice, and in Ottawa that means more power to the development industry because Ottawa's city administration is developer driven.

Hopefully our new City council will see the flaws in this proposal from the new mayor's election campaign and maintain the peoples representation on council and not give even more power to developers in running our city.


The Fifth Column Is Not Dead

I have just been a bit preoccupied with things lately. I've actually been thinking about things to blog about so once the spirit moves me I should be off and running.

More to write about SMH, of course, and cycling stuff and political commentary on all sorts of things. And I've been looking at getting a new camera that I want to talk about.

In the meantime I am posting short tweets and links on my twitter feed that you can follow on the right hand column of The Fifth Column.


Beautiful Calendars For Christmas Gifts

Are you looking for a unique Christmas gift for your friends and family. Is your company looking for a unique way to recognize your employees this holiday season. For only $20 each you can purchase beautiful calendars with high quality photos of Ottawa's beautiful South March Highlands taken by local photographers.

I cannot say enough about how beautiful and unique these calendars are. We have purchased many for gifts for our friends. This is a great opportunity to give your friends unique gifts and help save Ottawa's beautiful South March Highlands. Proceeds from calendar sales go to the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands (South March Highlands - Carp River Conservation Inc.).

Click Here To Order A Beautiful Calendar

No shipping charge for orders in the Ottawa area.


Mountain Biking and Saving the South March Highlands

Click On Images To Enlarge

The Ottawa mountain biking community in recent years has been focused on the South March Highlands Conservation Forest accepting that the rest of the South March Highlands/Kanata Lakes trails will be lost to inevitable urban development.

Personally I am starting to become very hopeful that that will not be so and that at least some, if not all, of the remaining South March Highlands lands and trails will be saved from development. This will provide the potential for the South March Highlands to become a real family destination for mountain biking with trails ranging from true beginner (Greenbelt type) level trails to the advanced trails in the Outback system.

Just last week I rode some of the old "Kanata Lakes" trails between Goulbourn Forced Road and the Hydro Cut and it was quite enjoyable. The addition of these trails back into the system would increase the intermediate (Group D type) level trails in the system.

But where I see real potential is in the land north of the existing Conservation Forest that already has a trail on it that connects to the trails within the existing Conservation Forest and provides a trail all around Heron Pond. This land is currently privately owned but zoned Environmental Protection. The potential I see there is to purposefully build a new sustainable trail network on the land further north where true beginner level trails could be built so that whole families, from Ottawa and beyond could visit, Family members could ride the trails that suit their skill level all from one central trailhead, where toilet facilities could be provided and perhaps a picnic area for families to meet up together mid day.

The same trails that form the basis for a beginner trail system could be used for a flowy race course where races could be held to further promote the South March Highlands as a mountain biking destination.

As is the current practice all these trails would be shared trails open to everyone. The only exception being the race course while actual races were being held.

The current City Council takes the first step to save all of the South March Highlands at one of it's last meetings in mid November. Urge your current councillor to support the Wilkinson-Doucet motion that starts the process of saving all of the South March Highlands. Let us all do what we can to save the South March Highlands from further urban development.


The Coalition to Protect The South March Highlands Changed Everything - The Need For A Moratorium on Development in SMH

Before the Sierra Club raised the issue of the Terry Fox Drive Extension and the Blandings Turtle, which was taken up by a group of concerned residents who expanded the mandate to include protecting all of the South March Highlands (SMH), there was no hope.

It was pretty well assumed that Terry Fox Drive would go through the middle of SMH, the KNL development south of the road would destroy that part of SMH and the only part of this ecological jewel that would be protected would be the city-owned South March Highlands Conservation Forest, including Trillium Woods and the land the city purchased thanks to Alex Munter.

My best hope at that time was that maybe the city would purchase at least some of the land north of the SMH Conservation Forest that is zoned Environmental Protection and add it to the protected lands.

Then came the Coalition to Protect the South March Highlands and due to their hard work in researching the environmental issues and raising public awareness of the South March Highlands everything changed.

I would like to thank them publicly for bringing us to the point that saving all of the South March Highlands is very much a possibility and saving at least more of it is virtually a certainty. I know how hard they have worked and how much dedication they have put to the cause and it is remarkable. I will not name names simply because I believe they would want the focus put on the land and not on individuals.

It is clear that their is a consensus among the community and City Council that the South March Highlands is an ecological jewel that should be saved. The only point of discussion seems to be how much money the City should spend, or can afford to spend, to save it.

Even City Council's most environmental neanderthal has proposed that the City spend money to purchase the lands north of the SMH Conservation Forest and the National Capital Commission (NCC) is considering adding the South March Highlands to the Greenbelt. Even the developer, KNL, is willing to give up a small portion of their lands to increase the protected area.

These lands are all environmentally inter-connected and dependent on each other, the loss of parts of it may have devastating effects on what is left. Those of us who are environmentally minded and forward thinking know that if we do not save all of the South March Highlands, or at least all of it that has not yet been developed, our descendants will look back at this lost opportunity with deep regret that we did not find a way to make it happen.

I will be the first one to recognize that there may be financial considerations that make it difficult for a municipality, the City of Ottawa, to buy all the KNL lands at their current value, the lands having been inappropriately rezoned for development when they should not have been. The blame for that must be shared by a lot of people.

But a way must be found to save this land that is of provincial significance from an environmental viewpoint, and of national significance being in the nation's capital. The responsibility and costs should be shared by all three levels of government.

What we need is a moratorium on all development in the South March Highlands until the community and all three levels of government can come together and find a solution to save this ecological jewel. All three levels of government must make a commitment to do what is necessary to put such a moratorium in place and the must do it immediately.

The decision makers must act now or their grandchildren's grandchildren will never forgive them.


How Dumb Does Randall Denley Really Think We Are

Randall Denley would have us all believe that the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) is an impartial body designed to protect citizen's interests from the actions of big bad government and that it is the only recourse citizens have to appeal municipal government decisions.

He states, in the Ottawa Citizen:

the candidate this week released a proposal to abolish the Ontario Municipal Board. He would like to extend the iron fist to council in general, so that council decisions would not be appealable to any other body.

An attempt to extinguish an individual's right to appeal a council decision is legally dubious at best. The individual's right to challenge a government decision is fundamental to our system. Doucet's idea would hurt communities, not just developers.
As a citizen, I have been involved with appeals to the OMB, as well as applications for judicial review, the process by which decisions by governments, including municipal governments, and governmental administrative bodies can be reviewed by the courts.

Randal Denley would have us believe that he is unaware of judicial review in Ontario. Does anyone really believe that an experienced journalist covering provincial and municipal affairs is not aware of judicial review.

No other province has the equivalent of the OMB. Abolishing the OMB will simply mean that appeals of municipal government decisions will be heard by real courts with real judges not by a developers kangaroo court presided over by corporate lackeys.

There is a word for statements that are made knowing them to be untrue.


Saving the South March Highlands - Urgent Call to Action

The story of the South March Highlands and why it must be saved, in under five minutes.
A must watch video. (Best viewed full screen in 720HD)

Who would have thought this spring, when the battle to save the South March Highlands was reignited, first by the Sierra Club of Canada in relation to the Terry Fox Drive Extension and the Blanding's Turtle, and soon after that by a coalition of concerned residents and community groups, focusing on the road and the proposed development lands, that we would be looking towards a possible victory in the battle.

However, as I write this, a motion is about to go before Ottawa City Council on Wednesday October 6 to expropriate the KNL lands, known as the Beaver Pond Forest, that are in imminent threat of clear cutting and urban development.

It is urgent that this motion pass as the first step in saving the South March Highlands. But it is only the first step. Originally all of the South March Highlands was zoned "environmental protection" and presumably protected. But as we all know, in Ontario, where developers have their own kangaroo court known as the Ontario Municipal Board, zoning is meaningless when it comes to protecting environmentally sensitive lands. In order to save the rest of the South March Highlands the city must purchase all of the remaining SMH lands that have not yet been developed, both those that have been rezoned for development, and those that remain zoned "environmental protection".

Maps indicating the boundary of the South March Highlands (from Brunton report)
and zoning of the lands (from City of Ottawa)

(click maps to enlarge)

Zoning Codes Used on Map
Residential Third Density Zone R3
Residential Fifth Density Zone R5
Parks and Open Space Zone O1
Environmental Protection Zone EP
Agricultural Zone AG
Rural Residential RR
Rural Countryside Zone RU
Development Reserve Zone DR

I therefore urge all of you to immediately email your City Councillor and urge them to support the expropriation motion and the acquisition by the city, by negotiation or expropriation, of all of the remaining SMH lands.

This is a jewel, a piece of wilderness in the city, that we cannot let become just more cookie cutter subdivisions.


Ottawa River Pathway Two Solitudes: PostScript

Yesterday I was down by the canal locks looking over at the "missing link" and realized there may be some sections where it is a challenge to continue the pathway along the river at the bottom due to the terrain. But there is a solution. These photos are from the boardwalk along Ramsey Lake in Bell Park in Sudbury

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)


East and West: Two Solitudes - The Problems With The Ottawa River Pathway

(Click On Maps To Enlarge)

The really nice thing about Ottawa is that so much of the Ottawa River shoreline is in public hands and includes shared scenic recreational pathways/bike paths. In the past few weeks I have rode on the eastern and western portions of the Ottawa River pathway and made some observations. The first one being:

It is often said of Canada, that it consists of two solitudes, English Canada and French Canada. When it comes to the Ottawa River Pathway the solitudes are East and West. The connections between Ontario and Quebec are actually quite good, however the East and West sections of the Ottawa River Pathway are separated from each other by sometimes dangerous roadways. I did not even try to follow the roadway from the east to west on my last ride because it started along a very narrow and winding under construction section of road.

However if you examine the map above you will see that there is not much development along the riverfront between the two sections of the Ottawa River Pathway, and I believe most of what development there is, are federal institutions. One of the problems with the National Capital's very good system of pathways is the lack of key interconnections. I believe this missing link to be one of the most important missing connections and connecting the two sections properly, avoiding roadways, should be given the highest priority.

I also see a problem with the western section of the Ottawa River Pathway:

The Ottawa River Pathway ends at the Andrew Haydon Park water park, although two separate pathways continue, one through parkland (Andrew Haydon Park and Dick Bell Park) and one along Carling Avenue.

Unlike all other pathways that I know of in the National Capital Region, the one through this parkland is not a shared pathway and bicycling is not allowed on it. The only reason I can think of for this anomaly is that it goes back to when those parks were in Nepean and different rules were applied. Indeed the section immediately east of the water park going go Britannia Park has as much, if not more, pedestrian traffic than the section that goes through Andrew Haydon Park and bicyclists and pedestrians manage to share the pathway with no problem. As well since there is an alternative faster and shorter route along Carling Avenue, commuter cyclists in a hurry would opt for that route leaving the route through the parkland for those wanting a casual ride through parkland avoiding the traffic noise of Carling Avenue.

It is time to move on and apply the same rules to this pathway as all other pathways in the National Capital Region.

After Dick Bell Park the pathway continues along Carling Avenue as that is where the publicly owned land ends, at least until we get to Shirley's Bay.

I also have an observation to make about the eastern end of the Ottawa River Pathway:

I discovered that there is another very pleasant gravel pathway a short distance from the eastern end of the Ottawa River Pathway. The pathway starts alongside Hiawatha Park Road, not far from the Bruyère Continuing Care Saint-Louis Residence, and goes all the way to Trim Road. One interesting thing about this pathway is that a group of what appear to be hiking and/or single track mountain bike trails intersect with it and run alongside a portion of the pathway.

I believe it would be very useful to have some signage at the eastern end of the Ottawa River Pathway directing people to this, as far as I know, unnamed pathway.

The Ottawa River Pathway is a very important part of the National Capital Region shared pathway system and very enjoyable to cycle on. With some improvements it could be a real gem, the most important being connecting the east and west sections safely so that they are no longer two solitudes.

See also: Ottawa River Pathway Two Solitudes: PostScript


Trail Building School in the South March Highlands

This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend a trail building school held by the people who invented sustainable trail building and literally wrote the books on it, the International Mountain Bicycling Association's IMBA Canada Trail Care Crew:

Supported by Parks Canada and the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and directed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association Canada (IMBA Canada), the IMBA Canada Trail Care Crew works with IMBA Canada-affiliated mountain bike clubs, TCT Provincial and Territorial organizations, Parks Canada and other trail user groups. Its mandate is to build new trails, maintain and restore existing trails, participate in solving trail management challenges, and to promote trails in order to improve trail conditions and trail experiences for everyone.

The IMBA Canada Trail Crew is a dynamic two-person team of professional trail builders that will travel throughout Canada year-round.

The work that the crew will do will benefit all types of trail users including hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, cross country skiers, snowshoers, bird watchers, and all other outdoor opportunities that use trails.

Source: Parks Canada website
Sustainable trail building is not just about mountain biking, and indeed most MTB trails are shared trails and IMBA has been working with other trail users in providing education and has trained people from the National Capital Commission (NCC) and Parks Canada in sustainable trail building methods. Parks Canada is currently revising their trail building manuals to reflect IMBA guidelines, and the NCC seems to be going through a slow shift in their attitude to mountain biking.

The first thing we learned at trail building school is that water runs downhill, well actually that was the second thing we learned. The first thing we learned was that planning is the most important part of trail building and should have the most time devoted to it. Key points are that all trail users need to be considered in planning a trail and that route design can be key in making a trail sustainable.

This is where the water runs downhill part comes in. One of the biggest factors in sustainable trail building is avoiding erosion so that designing a trail so that water runs off it rather than along it is key, and much of what we learned had to do with the degree of incline and slope of a trail. The bench cut method is one way of doing that. Some of the things we learned are described here.

Other factors in designing trails include keeping them away from fragile habitats of endangered species, the Blandings Turtle was mentioned, indicating that the Trail Care Crew was familiar with the SMH situation.

During the trail building school we got to meet many new people and learn a lot of new information, some of it not directly related to trail building techniques, such as the fact that OMBA has been given permission by the City to post signs on the SMH trails to help bikers and hikers know where they are and find their way out. I expect the signs will be in place by next spring. I also learned that the City of Ottawa's draft trail plan for the South March Highlands, with its inappropriate trail closures and denaturalization of trails, is apparently dead. Hopefully it will be back to the drawing board with proper consultations with the public and experts in trail design and building.

We spent the morning in the classroom and the afternoon in the field building a new trail, actually a re-route, in the South March Highlands.

Photos courtesy of David N of OMBA

In The Classroom

The Crew

Hiking In

The Route Is Flagged

Briefing From The Expert

Raking The Path

Bench Cut

Rock Work

The Finished Trail

Restoring The Old Trail

More photos of trail building school are available here.

Trail building school was sponsored by the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association (OMBA).