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
mr lovegrove. you need to run for parliament. spandex peloton! i love it. i am writing from sacramento, california & we have the same kind of problem here. cyclists & runners/joggers think the moon rotates around their elitist little world. don’t get me wrong. i love the tour de france. every year for 30 days or so, i give up my hatred of cycilists. and every december, i go out in the morning cold & rain to cheer on & hand out oranges to the brave souls running the california international marathon. & the rest of the year, i sneer at runners who think they own a piece of the road. they don’t. that is what multi-use trails are for. & only these kind of sniveling twits could object to seeing a horse in his/her natural surroundings! thank you for your time.
cordially, john orrin gann
You have so succinctly described the situation with the Lochside Trail.. Does no one realize what a rare treasure this trail is? It winds through horse country, totally bucolic and natural. Yet still just 20 minutes outside the capital of a Canadian province!! I thought BC, and Vancouver Island in general, were about providing natural experiences and places for locals and visitors. Why in the world would anyone be allowed to pave this trail? Once it’s paved it’s gone. There are so many other places for cyclists to ride in the Victoria area. This has always been a horse trail. It’s not meant to be a fast commuter route for cyclists. Can’t some of these special places be appreciated for what they are: unique, slower, of ethereal beauty? And kept as they are for our children’s children?
“They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot” – Joni Mithchell
Youch, from someone who ran along the American River almost every day for years before moving home to Victoria. I didn’t realize my “elitist little self” garnered such a vile, hateful response from anyone in otherwise friendly Sacramento. Nothing “cordial” about it. You clearly know nothing of the trail in question, John Gann, and are unfortunately using this important platform to spew venom on non-equestrians. Keep it at your house. Here, the trail IS multi use. We all enjoy it and 99% of us love to see riders of bikes and horses, families walking, children learning to ride, and joggers out enjoying our lovely part of the world. It’s called community. I suspect it is a minority of vocal road cyclists who have started this ball rolling, as the cyclists I know who use the GG are respectful of all the users. I know none of the equestrians or runners have issues with one another (we share parts of elk lake loop happily and as runners we see manure piles as a mini steeplechase or interval). I have heard suggested a paved lane, which I would acquiesce to if it satisfied all parties. My kids are thrilled by the horses, and without a rural lifestyle or the funds for equestrian pursuits it is their only interaction with these amazing creatures. For most of us … I would guess the vast majority … It isn’t broken or in need of a fix. At day’s end it is a multi use trail, commuting being only one use and not having any right to supersede all other uses. Dave and John, you’ve inspired me to hit the Lochside Trail for a nice am run tomorrow, ready for mud and steeplechase. Thanks for a thoughtful and inspiring article.
I am neither a bicycler nor a horse rider. My wife and I are both in our 70’s and often walkIf anyone were to be banned from this trail I would much prefer to see bicyclers banned – at least until they learn some manners. My wife and I frequently walk on various rural trails; the Galloping Goose, trails around Elk & Beaver Lake, the Blenkinsop Valley and elsewhere. The problem with bicyclers in the places where they ride is that many seem to think they are competing in the Tour de France, travelling at highest speed possible. They rarely give warning by voice or bell when approaching from behind and upon numerous occasions we have been subjected to rude words or resentful glares as if we are at fault for not deferring to their need for speed. We have had our elderly dog knocked down by a biker who continued with no word of apology nor halt to inspect for possible damage. I imagine it is even more dangerous for horse riders when one or more of these speed demons silently overtake them at speed.. I don’t really want to see bicyclists banned, but If the powers that be want to expend our tax dollars, how about putting up signs to remind bikers of ordinary consideration for others, or just build them an oval somewhere where they can burn off their childish lust for speed harmlessly. Do not destroy this oasis of rural tranquillity.
I cycle, run and walk along this trail, commuting to Sydney for work in the past. If I want to avoid the mud or sticks for commuting, the highway has lanes to make it quick and efficient.
The special corridor from Lochside park to Martindale is a protected corridor from the coastal winds and forms an oasis teeming with life, including horses; giant gentle animals, intelligent and magnificent trotting alongside walkers, cyclists, dogs and kids. This walk has offered healing and respite from daily stresses and some major times of sadness for me; beauty and serenity surround you and fill the senses with the smell of damp earth and mosses.
According to some new research, the smells and sights of the forest ground us and affect the health of our bodies and minds, so much so that hospital architects are paying attention to the views outside patient windows – patients heal faster when viewing the outdoors smile emoticon. As we lose agricultural land and pristine forest ecosystems to condos and development we lose our connection to our most primal healer – nature. The sounds of birds and farm animals bring you back to a feeling of childhood wonderment inspiring creativity. It is often that I have come home after this walk to write creative pieces inspired by this very corridor. The ecosystem is rich with composted forest detritus, manure, woodchips, small creeks, mud flat areas, bog and hosts a likely complex mix of bacteria and fungus that benefits the farms, trees, air and wildlife that call it home. The carpet of dirt, gravel and rich dark humus provide soft ground for horses but also joggers who want to protect ther joints. Seniors walk and run along this corridor as well, its soft path easy on the body.
Unfortunately, while I walked at the very edge of the trail going in the right direction, an aggressive cyclist pushed me into the shrubbery as a pedestrian, and I don’t put it down to them being a “cyclist” but a human being that hasn’t evolved past neanderthal awareness, ooga ooga chug chug, breast beating and all that. It gives a bad name to cyclists and one must not let one bad apple lead to generalizations as I am one of them and don’t wish to be painted with broad strokes of assumptions- goal in my view is courteous cycling in view of a trail shared by the community.
Just along to the right of the first part of the path, they have paved a meadow that hosted families of black tailed deer. The saddest vision, a family of deer stood watching from behind the orange plastic fencing as their grazing field disappeared and was replaced by asphalt. Most of the time, there are few cars parked there 5 days a week save for the tournament parking on weekends. I was reminded of Watership Down. What makes Saanich wonderful is that you have urban conveniences amidst nature in balance, now we stand to lose one of the most photographed sections of the trail, it never gets old; as the seasons change and the fog rolls in and out, I’m reminded of the hollows traveled by Icabod Crane, pure magic. Children walk the corridor in awe of animals, nature and people. We need to protect these pristine junctures between urban and rural borders.
I’m in favor of bike-lanes along roadsides but when it comes to protecting the fast disappearing slices of nature, I concede in favour of preservation of what we have not destroyed already in lieu of convenience, speed and less mud on my cycling butt. Hasn’t the ravages of global warming screamed loud enough yet and shown us that we need to change our desire for convenience at the cost of destruction of our environment? As the song goes… Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you got till it’s gone?