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?

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