Mountain Biking and Saving the South March Highlands

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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.