Bishop’s ski trail neigh­bours speak for the trees

Sherbrooke Record - - FRONT PAGE - By Gor­don Lam­bie

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.”

GOR­DON LAM­BIE

Patrick Draper stand­ing along­side a man­gled tree trunk on a new sec­tion of Bishop's Univer­sity's cross coun­try ski trails.

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