Save the Hill!

The Ottawa Mountain Bike Association wants to construct a mountain bike park on large chunks of Carlington Ski Hill in west end Ottawa. Riley Brockington, the councillor for the area and the City appear to support the proposal.

I say don’t fix what ain’t broke. Don’t these folks realize what they already have?

The Hill is the habitat and food source for birds, mammals, and insects. It is the play area for kids and adults, for dog walkers and runners, cyclists and tubers, naturalists and foragers, and photographers and bird watchers.

There are several small stands of woods, largely deciduous but some evergreens. Trees are marvelous things. Every day, a single large tree provides enough oxygen for four people. They help build and retain soil and mitigate flooding.

Carlington small fir at top

This little fir has a great view from the top.

Judging by the images presented in the OMBA proposal, trees would need to be removed in order to construct the park, leading to potential soil erosion. Further compaction by bicycles could add more surface run-off during rain storms to residents and businesses below and put stress on the storm water system.

Ottawa has already lost millions of trees—and will lose many more in the next decade—to the emerald ash borer, disease, drought and other stresses. Can we really afford to be ripping out any healthy trees?

The open fields along the path at McBride and Lepage are abundant with flowering plants, making it prime real estate for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. Bees, who are responsible for pollinating up to one-third of our food supply, are under attack from many sides. Ditto for Monarch butterflies (the Hill boasts a good crop of milkweed). Do we really want to be disrupting the habitats of the very animals that help produce the food we eat?

Sumac berries are an excellent food source for birds, even in winter months. Sumac has long been used as a spice and a lemon substitute.

Sumac berries are an excellent food source for birds, even in winter months. Sumac has long been used as a spice and a lemon substitute.

The Hill offers kids lots of opportunities to play and get fresh air, not just those who want to mountain bike. There are so many ways to get there by foot or bike, including the NCC’s Experimental Farm pathway, which runs parallel to the south side of the Hill. Once you’re there, anyone who’s ever walked up those steep slopes will tell you it’s a good workout.

But the Hill is also a living laboratory where kids and adults alike can explore and learn about all kinds of botany, biology, zoology and all the other –ologies that may apply. They can exercise and breathe fresh air and take part as citizen scientists. They can fly a kite on a hot August afternoon with their friends, or toboggan in February.

The OMBA does good work. I’m a former Commuter Challenge organizer, a lifelong cyclist and I know that I have benefited from the work of organizations and volunteers like them.

But they are wrong to think that a bike park would not disrupt existing human and non-human activities. If we turn this

Carlington McBridge path up

 

into that

Photo of a dirt jump design from the OMBA Carlington Bike Park proposal.

Photo of a dirt jump design from the OMBA Carlington Bike Park proposal.

we will disrupt it. We will degrade the biodiversity of the area and limit or even eliminate a range of recreational uses in favour of a single use.

Carlington residents who are members of the Carlington Community Association will vote on the OMBA proposal at their Annual General Meeting, May 25, 2016. Details at: http://www.carlingtoncommunity.org/.

Save the Hill!


Other Resources

Both Wikipedia and Urbsite offer a bit of Hill history.

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