Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Bit of a Pet Peeve

I was driving down Main Street in Sussex today and witnessed something that frustrated me.  I was driving my work truck with the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee magnets on the side.  If it was the first time this summer I had seen this it might not have bothered me so bad but this was the third time.  If I had a more confrontational personality this environmental crime would not have gone unpunished.  Luckily for the woman committing the crime I let it go, after all, it is not actually criminal but in my opinion it should be.

So what did she, and two others, do that frustrated me?  She was emptying out a bucket of wash water directly into the storm drain.  So why should this be an environmental crime?  Well, when you empty anything directly into the storm drain it usually has a direct path to a natural stream or river.  This means what ever grease and oil you cleaned off your car, windows, or whatever and throw down the storm drain it could potentially pollute your nearby stream.  If every one did this can you imagine the impact. Who knows what was in the bucket the lady emptied out but even the cleaners you might use are harmful to water quality and fish and other aquatic species.

Even when we park our cars at the grocery store, if we have fluids leaking, they will find their way into the storm drains and then into the rivers.  Next time when you're in a large parking lot find a storm grate and look around for the telltale sheen of oil following the low drainage areas of the parking lot.  Then look at all the cars in the lot and consider if every car leaked how much oil or gas that could be entering the local streams.

There are programs that try to draw attention to this issue but the results are hard to quantify and so to is the impact that such actions have.  As for a car leaking fluids, I know it is next to impossible to stop, but if you can keep your car tuned up to reduce such leaks.  Every bit helps.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Biking Down a Back Road

Coming up on Saturday I'll be at the Apohaqui Rec Center throughout the day.  I'll be manning an information tent for the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee at the Back Roads Bicycle Festival.  You can register the day of the event and there is lots going on.  Check out the links.

There are a number of activities that I don't get to take part in as often as I like.  Golf is one of those and I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago.  Kayaking or canoeing is another one and I have only been able to do that once this summer.  There is one activity though that I have not yet been able to participate in at all this summer.  Cycling is a sport of speed and daring where one wrong move can lead to injury, just ask Simon Whitfield.

Cycling, whether on a road or on a trail, is a thrill.  As a kid I spent lots of time in the saddle taking risks and pushing my limits.  I usually rode trails in the nearby farm fields where we built jumps and ramps to test our skills on our BMXs.  This likely developed my preference for trail riding versus road riding.  My mother can attest to the numerous scars and bruises I came home with after my many bike wrecks.

Coming up August 25th is a chance for me to relive some of those glory days.  The "Back Roads Bicycle Fest" will give me a chance to sweat and feel the wind in my hair as I move up and down through the gears.  The event will be held at the Apohaqui Lower Millstream Recreation Center and I hope to get there and take in the activities.  Talking to some of the organizers there will be lots of informative workshops to go along with a number of bike rides.

Based on the success and model created by the Cornhill Bicycle Fest, this festival will showcase the great back road routes in and around Apohaqui.  The organizers hope that the success of last year's event in Cornhill will translate into similar success for this year's event. The rides being organized will have various start times and will be of various lengths.  The event has something for everyone; whether you're a seasoned cyclist who puts in over 100km per week or a newbie who would be lucky to have cycled 10km in their lifetime.  The routes will highlight some of the many great places within our great county. 

Sign in for the event is from 9:00-10:00am on that Saturday morning or you can pick up advance registration forms at Outdoor Elements.  For the kids there will be a bike rodeo, for the history buffs there will be a presentation on the history of Apohaqui, workshops on bike maintenance and proper shifting of gears for the die hard cyclists, and for those who might prefer to paddle over peddle information on the Kennebecasis will be available.

Also coming up on August 15-16th is the Kennebecasis Watershed Restoration Committee's "Beginner's Fly Fishing Workshop."  This free event still, at press time, had space available and if you are interested call their office, 433-4394, today or tomorrow, to inquire further.  Last year's event was very well received with all participants walking away with something.  This year, a lucky beginner will walk away with a fly rod and reel combo from  If you can't get into this event keep an eye out for next years.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Grads of '92 - Go Sonics

My first day senior year with two other influences.
It seems like just yesterday now.  I wore a black leather coat with red shoulders and a white armband.  I had dark wavy hair.  I had no worries.  High school is mainly a blur now with only the highlights standing out.  I played hockey for the Sonics, who won the regular season and a couple of tournaments along the way.  I played soccer, dated, partied, lived, and learned.  In the end I graduated 20 years ago and this weekend we celebrated our 20th reunion.

What was really cool for me was the changes among people.  I sat with my wife at one point and observed the interaction between old classmates and was entertained by it all.  The subtle differences are what stood out because a great deal hadn't changed.  I'm not talking the physical differences either.  Maturity, family, marriage, success and/or failure had altered the social hierarchy.

My Gram was also a huge influence, love you Gram
I graduated with some great people and throughout high school I felt there were very few social lines unless imposed by ones self.  This was even more obvious at this recent reunion.  I want to say to the Grads of '92 from Sussex Regional High School - "You all are awesome and helped provide me with a great structure for life."  Those days meant a great deal to me and I may not have known it then but now as I often look back on those days, I was learning a great deal and most of you had a major role in that and all of you had at least a minor roll.  Thanks so much.

I think I realized too that my enjoyment through school is a key factor that brought me back, or maybe kept me here, to raise my family.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Re-Evaluating how We Develop Recreational Opportunities

This entry was published in the Kings County Record a week ago.  My hope is that people who read it will think about how we promote and develop outdoor recreation infrastructure.  I hope it makes you think.
Was this bridge and river side parking lot necessary to improve recreation and tourism along the Fundy Coast?

I'm hoping this column will prompt you to consider the value of future developments in our pursuit of greater tourism dollars and outdoor recreation for everyone.  Sometimes, in the name of recreation, people justify altering nature so that they might better enjoy themselves.  This might come across a bit harsh, but I want people to think about, and possibly re-evaluate how, we develop nature. 

In the Sussex area we are blessed to have a beautiful walking trail.  A couple of years ago they decided to "develop wetlands" along the trail to improve the experience.  My question is; what was wrong with what was there in the first place?  Why couldn't we just appreciate what was already there?  I will enjoy the wetlands that are now there, and indeed I think they may actually serve a modest natural function as well but so too did the landscape that was their prior to the wetlands.

After the wetlands went in the Town decided to develop a dog park, which is rumored to be further enhanced soon.  I have a dog and I can understand the need for a space to take my dog.  Trust me my dog needs space and the poor trees in my backyard can attest to that.  When I go for a hike the dog is now a solid companion.  I still need to work on her fishing etiquette but she has lots of time for that yet.  Sorry, I'm off track.  Nature provides us with an excellent dog park so I don't know why we would spend resources on creating a fenced in, un-shaded, dog park. There is no better place to exercise your soul, body, and your dog, than in nature.  Your dog likely still feels constricted behind the fence of the dog park so why not let him run a little in the woods and fields around Cornhill or Apohaqui.

Similarly, I would say that we need to re-evaluate how we invest resources into building trails.  Those resources might be better spent elsewhere. This might seem a bit odd coming from someone who promotes hiking and active living but I also promote natural ecosystems and sustainability.  I'm not saying there isn't a need for groomed trails and dog parks.  I am suggesting that we need to re-evaluate our infrastructure and development needs before altering what Mother Nature has created.  Bush whacking through a spruce thicket is better exercise than walking a nicely groomed trail and gives us a better sense of where we came from as well.

One of my biggest pet peeves is the Fundy Trail Parkway.  A number of years ago there was a push to increase tourism in our region.  To do so we have potentially altered the natural area that we seek to promote and made it very unnatural.  It is very unlikely that this development will truly have a financial gain, with the exception being to the maintenance contractors who will continually pave and upkeep the roads and other infrastructure. 

I do not stand opposed to development but would like to tip the scale a little to give nature a greater weight when deciding what type of development we need.  Cities and towns in recent years have built expansive one story buildings on prime agricultural ground or flood plains when two blocks away there might have been derelict buildings or underdeveloped lots.  As we move forward we need to consider how future developments will impact our natural surroundings and when possible we should fully minimize any developmental footprint created.
Stairs such as these create maintenance costs and if not maintained a safety hazard.  As a tax payer how do you feel about maintaining them?