Bishop’s ski trail neighbours speak for the trees
Late last week Patrick and Kathleen Draper sent a message to several members of the Bishop’s University community as well as the Mayor of Sherbrooke and Lennoxville’s borough council to express concerns about work being done on the cross country ski trails at the Old Lennoxville Gold Course. In their message the brother and sister, whose property borders on the golf course, noted that a large number of healthy, mature trees had been cut down in the name of clearing the new trail and questioned whether the environmental impact of the decision had been considered.
“I think it’s a gem,” Patrick Draper told The Record on Monday, speaking of the mostly undeveloped land between the golf course and the river where the trails have been cleared. “The university is so fortunate to have that.”
Draper shared that he first had concerns about the clearing of trails last year when the University announced the construction of a 3.3 kilometre trail on the grounds of the Golf Club, but opted not to speak up about them publically because he thought the work was already finished. Now, after seeing a fresh trail cut last week, he said he wishes he had spoken up about it sooner.
“This is a very unique property,” Draper said, “and with that comes the responsibility to manage it wisely to ensure it will be there for future generations.”
The Drapers’ message received a quick response from Matt Mcbrine, the Director of Athletics and Recreation for Bishop’s University. In his response,
Mcbrine acknowledged the concerns expressed but underlined the legitimacy of the work being done.
“We have obtained the required permits to proceed in consultation with the City of Sherbrooke, and the work is performed under the supervision of a forestry engineer, to ensure it is done in accordance with best practices and professional standards,” Mcbrine wrote.
Speaking with The Record over the phone, the director of athletics explained that an effort has been made to engage in what he called “healthy cutting.”
“We’re very selective in which trees we cut and why,” Mcbrine said, underlining that the project relies on the expertise of forestry engineer and Orford Ski Club Race Director René Pomerleau. He also pointed out that, in accordance with the University’s tree policy, all of the trees being removed at the golf course are being replaced.
“It’s going to take several years to replace all the trees we are cutting,” he said. “We added 150 this summer and we’re adding 200 in the spring.”
While defending the project’s environmental footprint, director of athletics also underlined the significance of developing the trails to the University and the community.
“It’s really exciting for Bishop’s” Mcbrine said, explaining that the motivation is to host national level races. “This is a long term project for us. Our whole plan is to see how we could possibly expand the course and have more offering.”
This winter the course will host two big races: the Haywood Noram World Championship Trials in January and the Canadian National Senior Championships.
According to Mcbrine, in races certified by the FIS, the international ski federation, the key events are 10K. As a result, it is valuable to have expanded Bishop’s trails to a length of five kilometers because it makes it easier to achieve that key distance without much repetition.
“Only about 990 metres of that (expansion) is in the woods,” he added, pointing out that much of the new FIS certified trail is out on the golf course in already-cleared areas. “I don’t see us doing a whole lot more cutting in the foreseeable future, but we might.”
Reflecting on the exchanges with Mcbrine this year and last year, Draper said that he feels the matter is an issue of differing priorities.
“His priority is going to be for the ski trail and our priority is the preservation of that tract of land,” the concerned citizen said.
Draper acknowledged that Bishop’s owns the land and that the school has its reasons for taking the actions it has, but he said he still feels concerned about the impacts of the clearing on the local environment. “Planting trees is good if it’s done properly,” he said, arguing that any development project needs to have its benefits measured against its environmental cost, “but it will take 100 years for the trees to be the same as what was cut down.”
Patrick Draper standing alongside a mangled tree trunk on a new section of Bishop's University's cross country ski trails.