Myths don’t stand up to facts

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - Rod Thomp­son Rod Thomp­son is a re­tired Parks Canada ge­o­mat­ics spe­cial­ist and en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ment co-or­di­na­tor in Prince Al­bert Na­tional Park. The Glace Bay res­i­dent has ex­pe­ri­ence in wild lands restora-tion, trail de­sign and main­te­nance.

Off-high­way ve­hi­cles are de­stroy­ing Cape Bre­ton’s shore­lines, says lo­cal man.

Last fall, I wrote a col­umn in the Cape Bre­ton Post about the hu­man caused ero­sion along the coast from the port in Glace Bay to the end of South Street.

I am pleased to say that the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic-ipal­ity car­ried out re­me­di­a­tion at the end of South Street by in­stalling riprap to pro­tect the shore from fur­ther ero-sion.

But, the con­tin­u­ing ero­sion caused by Off-High­way Ve­hi­cles (so called quads and off-road mo­tor bikes) along the top of the cliff at the shore­line con­tin­ues. My con-cerns, along with those of res­i­dents in the area, about off-road mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cle (OHV) use were not ad­dressed by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

Pro­fes­sor Lorne Fitch, pro­fes­sional bi­ol­o­gist in Al-berta, wrote a won­der­ful ar­ti­cle pub­lished in the Al­berta Wilder­ness Pub­li­ca­tion on the myths about OHV use. In his ar­ti­cle he states a num­ber of myths about OHV use and out­lines the ac­tual facts ver­sus the myths. They in­clude:

1. OHV op­er­a­tors state that they know how to use their ve­hi­cles and they don’t cause any long-stand­ing dam­age to the en­vi­ron­ment, the uses try to state that only a small per­cent­age of users don’t fol­low the ‘rules.’

In ac­tual fact, un­re­lent­ing traf­fic on and off trails is the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor to ero­sion, wildlife dis­rup­tion, and loss of quiet recre­ation. As Fitch states, “That in­cludes ev­ery­one who op­er­ates an OHV.”

2. Users of OHVs state that they know how to op­er­ate their ma­chines to min­i­mize im­pacts and be “good stew­ards” of the en­vi­ron­ment.

In re­al­ity, OHVs cre­ate a large amount of dam­age and prob­lem ar­eas in the form of ex­ces­sive ero­sion, ruts, mud holes, trail widen­ing, and mul­ti­ple-trail de­vel­op­ment which sug­gests any­thing but ste­ward­ship. Be­tween South Street and the port in Glace Bay, the land along the shore-line is full of ero­sion, ruts, mud holes and trail widen­ing caused by OHV use.

3. The ar­gu­ment stated by OHV users is that they ex-ert no more pres­sure on the soil sur­face than a hiker dis-ap­pears un­der the higher OHV speed and their spin­ning tires. This lin­ear traf­fic dis­rupts drainage pat­terns. The cause and ef­fect is eas­ily seen along the shore­line with new flows of run­ning wa­ter fol­low­ing the tracks of the OHVs and cut­ting deep in­ci­sions into the un­der­ly­ing soil/ tills, loss of nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion and loss of wildlife.

Prior to the dam­age by OHVs, wa­ter was cap­tured by veg­e­ta­tion and was al­lowed to slowly fil­ter into the soils and not into over­land flows. The dis­rup­tion of nat­u­ral pro­cesses has caused the loss of a lot of shore­line over the past few years, not through the ero­sion of the un­der­ly­ing bedrock which has a much slower ero­sion rate.

Con­tin­ued OHV use along the shore­line will, in the end, cost the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and landown­ers liv­ing near the shore­line a lot of money in the near fu­ture. I don’t know the cost for the pro­tec­tion of South Street, but there are plans in place to con­tinue this pro­tec­tive process along the shore to pro­tect in­fras­truc­ture along the out­let of Big Glace Bay Lake.

In the very near fu­ture, un­less mit­i­ga­tion is car­ried out, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity or prov­ince will be re­quired to spend even more to ei­ther pro­tect or re­im­burse landown­ers who are los­ing their prop­erty due to the ef­fects of OHV use.

If any reader wants to dis­cuss this col­umn with me, I can be reached by email at rodthomp­ I would be happy to dis­cuss this with you no mat­ter which side of the is­sue you are on.

“Con­tin­ued OHV use along the shore­line will, in the end, cost the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and landown­ers liv­ing near the shore­line a lot of money in the near fu­ture.”

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