Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pave The World

I went for an evening spin around Nosehill Natural Environment Park last week. It's the largest natural area urban park in Canada (covering 2700 acres) and its only moments from my house. I was hoping to get a few offroad hours in on my mountain bike, but I was disappointed to discover that the city is: 1) paving the trails, and 2) mowing the park.

This is being done in the name of minimizing human impact on the natural environment at the park. That seems counter intuitive to me. The rationale behind paving is that people will be more likely to stay on a trail that is paved, which will cut down on the proliferation of the informal trail network. The rationale behind mowing is that it will keep the birds from nesting in the tall grass while the paving is taking place. Is there really a better alternative place for the birds to nest? Wont the absence of birds have an impact on other living things in the park? What are the possible implications of mowing on the native vegetation (ability to seed, exposure of short plants, etc)? What are the possible implications of mowing on the animal life (that rely on the grasses as habitat/protection/food)?

I realize that there are probably a lot of smart people that have put a lot of time in to thinking about this, but, I'm not satisfied this is a positive move for the park. Beyond the environmental reasons, I'm bothered by the paving for personal reasons. I go to the park because the paths aren't paved. I try to be mindful of my impact on the park environment by staying to the primary paths and avoiding use in wet conditions. I think others do too. I imagine those that don't are simply unaware of the impact that they make. It occurs to me that education (by way of signs, for example), would be a low-cost, low-impact solution. Unfortunately, it seems that I'm too late to have a say here.


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