Tweets, shots and roads scholars

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - -- Richard Ma­honey

An amus­ing, and slightly an­noy­ing, mes­sage was thumbed out by Jamie Mac­Don­ald via his Twit­ter ac­count re­cently. “Giv­ing up my seat on coun­cil for this new seat,” typed the North Glen­garry Town­ship Deputy Mayor, be­fore the hash tag “never com­ing back.” Above the mis­sive was a photo of Mr. Mac­Don­ald, look­ing too re­laxed and com­fort­able as he lounged in an in­cred­i­bly blue idyl­lic pool, which fea­tured, ev­i­dently, a re­fresh­ment area.

He wasn’t in Alexandria any­more. He had, like so many other snow­birds, tem­po­rar­ily es­caped Old Man Win­ter by bak­ing in a hot Mex­i­can haven where the only ice around is used to cool drinks.

Now be­fore you say, “Oh no, not another by-elec­tion!” let us stress that the Deputy Mayor was jok­ing about “giv­ing up his seat.” He has no in­ten­tion of step­ping down, only a few months be­ing ac­claimed to the post. Among Tweet­ers, the crack about re­sign­ing and mov­ing to Mexico elicited a few chuck­les, some pangs of jeal­ousy and a cho­rus of “It must be nice...”

Many of us, if we were for­tu­nate enough to be vis­it­ing a warmer clime, would share the tanned politi­cian’s sen­ti­ments, and would rel­ish a per­ma­nent perch in the surf. But, mean­while, back in blus­tery wind-chilled Glen­garry, we pre­pare to tough out another five weeks of Win­ter.

When it comes to pre­dict­ing the unof­fi­cial ar­rival of Spring, we not need rely on that sci­en­tific prog­nos­ti­ca­tor, the Ground Hog. Ev­ery year, by mid-March, there is light at the end of the snow-clogged tun­nel, so to speak.

Since a south­ern so­journ is not in our im­me­di­ate fu­ture, we must carry on, roll with what­ever punches Mother Na­ture de­liv­ers and make the most of our long­est sea­son.

Na­ture lovers -- and ev­ery­one loves na­ture -- are in their el­e­ment be­cause con­di­tions are per­fect at this time of year to spot shy wildlife. For ex­am­ple, deer and hare are easy to track on a snow-cov­ered for­est floor. Many fauna fans have taken to “shoot­ing” for­est crea­tures with re­mote-con­trolled cam­eras that are ac­ti­vated when an an­i­mal ap­proaches. These can­did photos demon­strate that we have no idea what the an­i­mals are up to and re­mind us of the di­ver­sity of the crit­ters with which we share this spe­cial place.

Of course, ev­ery­one can help our fine-feathered friends, and im­prove view­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties, by main­tain­ing bird feed­ers. One of the most pop­u­lar pas­sions, bird-watch­ing is a very low-im­pact ac­tiv­ity, but some of the good seed can be pricey.

For­tu­nately, when it comes to the cost of the ba­sics, the last few months have been more bear­able than past cold snaps thanks to a rare plunge in fuel prices. It is now cheaper to heat the house, drive a car and play with the ever-grow­ing as­sort­ment of win­ter toys on the mar­ket. One per­son’s pas­sion is another per­son’s pain in the ear.

Two sim­ple words can strike fear into the hearts of ru­ral peo­ple seek­ing the peace and quiet of the coun­try -- ATV trail.

In North Glen­garry, a bar­rier is be­ing erected to keep mo­tor­ized ve­hi­cles off the trail sys­tem.

In the mean­time, in South Glen­garry, the town­ship has given the green light to the Glen­daler’s Win­ter Sports Club to a new trail near Sum­mer­stown. The or­ga­ni­za­tion stresses that its mem­bers are re­spon­si­ble and law-abid­ing. Plus, it is dif­fi­cult to block any­one from us­ing a road al­lowance, since it is a public high­way. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties feel se­cure in adopt­ing this po­si­tion be­cause it is based on the ad­vice of On­tario lawyer W.D. “Rusty” Rus­sell, who is an ex­pert on all things road-re­lat

ed. Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials regularly re­fer to Rus­sell on Roads Sec­ond Edi­tion, a 320-page “pleas­ant and easy-to-read guide,” which costs $105, and is no doubt worth ev­ery penny.

Any­body who drives in these parts knows that we must ex­pect the un­ex­pected when we take to the high­way. The prox­im­ity of snow­mo­bile trails to public routes can be un­nerv­ing, es­pe­cially at night, when you see a sin­gle light zip­ping along­side a steady stream of traf­fic.

And then there is the ever-chang­ing weather. To date, the num­ber of “snow days” has been few, com­pared to the old days when we ex­pe­ri­enced real win­ters. The de­ci­sion to can­cel school bus ser­vice is not taken lightly, points out Stu­dent Trans­porta­tion of Eastern On­tario, which op­er­ates ap­prox­i­mately 750 school ve­hi­cles, which trans­port ap­prox­i­mately 32,000 stu­dents across dis­tricts in Eastern On­tario. Fore­casts and in­for­ma­tion from bus driv­ers in 18 zones across the dis­trict are used to make the call.

The STEO notes that with such a large area, it’s not un­usual for weather to be bad in some parts of the ju­ris­dic­tion, and not in oth­ers. Boards can­cel bus­ing in prob­lem ar­eas, or ar­eas where weather is ex­pected to pose dif­fi­culty for bus driv­ers by the time they pick up stu­dents for the re­turn trip home. This means buses can be can­celled in all 18 zones, or can­celled in as few as one, when con­di­tions war­rant. Did you know that fog can also af­fect bus ser­vice? STEO notes, “Fog greatly in­creases the risk that mo­torists may col­lide with a stopped ve­hi­cle or with a stu­dent in the process of cross­ing a road to board the bus. Con­se­quently, bus driv­ers have been in­structed not to stop in fog patches where vis­i­bil­ity is sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced. If a stu­dent is not picked up due to foggy con­di­tions, the bus driver will pro­vide the names of those stu­dents to the school prin­ci­pal upon ar­rival at the school.”

You may be say­ing to your­self, “Those wimps can­cel the bus at the first sign of a flake.” While peo­ple may get frus­trated if roads in their area are fine, Mother Na­ture is fickle. It can be sunny at your house and dread­ful on the next con­ces­sion. And once the de­ci­sion is made to run, it can­not be re­versed if the en­tire dis­trict is hit by a bliz­zard. It is al­ways best to err on the side of cau­tion. The same rule of thumb ap­plies to other things, such as tweet­ing.

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