A passionate debate is growing in Victoria over whether or not to pave a section of the Lochside Regional Trail between Martindale Road in Central Saanich and Lochside Park in Saanich in Greater Victoria. In addition to the substantial cost involved, doing so would trigger a Captial Regional District (CRD) rule that bans horses from paved CRD trails.
Lochside Trail is a popular multi-use trail used by runners, walkers, bike riders and horseback riders. The prevailing harmony is jeopardized by those who complain that the surface is too soft, and the trail is muddy at times. They complain about the wood chips laid on one side of the trail for the benefit of horses, and they whine about the horse droppings on the trail and having to slow down so as not to spook or collide with a horse. They want the trail paved and the horses gone.
This is not a city trail. This is a rural section of a multi-use trail. Instead of embracing the opportunity to enjoy a fabulous stretch of trail through trees and farmlands, we search for the minutest inconvenience, then demand that it be rectified so we can ride or run on a paved trail without muddying our equipment, or we don’t have to slow down or respect a horse and rider, or so the spandex peloton can blast along at 50 km per hour on racing road bikes. When a special-interest group demands their rights, it invariably infringes upon the rights of others.
We complain that riders don’t dismount and remove horse droppings. Just how safe would it be for the horse, the rider, and trail users for riders to dismount and remount on the trail? Horse manure is simply grass and feed whose nutrients return to the soil in no time at all. Perhaps the complainers could stop and observe a pile of horse manure and recognize the vital role it plays in the ecosystem, providing nutrients, minerals and vital liquids to a host of creatures, such as butterfiles, beetles and bugs. Mould finally takes over and eventually all value is extracted from the manure – and no humans are harmed in the process.
We are fortunate enough to live in a magnificent province in a first-world country that operates relatively efficiently and provides us with so many amenities and opportunities, yet we complain about what others could only dream of having. There are those that have to walk to school or carry water from distant rivers, those that live without clean water, without running water in their homes, without electricity, without sufficient food, and without the basic neccessities for a comfortable, safe and healthy life. Some live amongst violence, murder and unspeakable conditions that we simply could not conceive of, yet we complain about riding on a fantastic trail because it is not paved.
In our chaotic, stressful world, we should be connecting more with Mother Earth instead of paving the path ahead of us. When trail users reach this section of the trail, which resembles an enclosed green tunnel, they could try removing their shoes and continuing barefoot, feeling the pulse and rhythm of the earth through their feet, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the trees, the birds, the critters, and the general magnificence. Twenty minutes of that will soothe the soul and encourage appreciation for the wonderment that surrounds us in our beautiful corner of the world.
A brief encounter with a horse could be viewed either as a nuisance and hindrance, or the highlight of your day; a notable interaction with a magnificent animal; a memorable encounter to be celebrated; an opportunity to depart the trail feeling a little less stressed and tense.
This is a typical first-world dilemma; an example of how society can lose the plot and allocate scarce resources to the most unimportant matters for reasons known only to the lobbyists. If the CRD does in fact have the resources available to enhance Lochside Trail, then spend it instead on building a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over busy Mackenzie Road at Borden Street.
It may be time for those who do not appreciate what we have, and those that seek to pave paradise for their own selfish reasons, to sit down quietly and mindfully … and pull themselves toward themselves.
More information on the Lochside Trail in Victoria