(this article has been updated)
To: Dave Mitchell, Councillor for Ward 11
Subject: Re: Hydro Corridors as Walking/Cycling Trails
Dear Councillor Dave Mitchell,
I'm trying to understand your reasoning in opposing the use of rural Hydro corridors for multi-use paths, and I just can't come up with anything.
Your argument - a bizarre analogy that tries to compare walking and cycling down a trail with "ripping the hell out of" someone's lawn on a skidoo or ATV - just doesn't make any sense. I quite simply have no idea what your point may be.
Are you aware of the fundamental differences between human-powered and motor-powered transportation?
Machines are noisy, heavy, smelly, polluting, and damaging - particularly recreational machines that do not employ the emission- and noise-reducing devices that are standard on cars.
By contrast, walking and cycling are quiet, light, non-polluting, and non-damaging (bicycles taken off paths and ridden recklessly can, however, damage plants and cause erosion). Being human-powered, they are inherently less energy consuming, less polluting, and healthier than motorized vehicles.
It is for this reason that the city wants to encourage their use [PDF link] - not merely for the narcissistic joy of "ripping the hell out of" someone's property.
In a world where climate change and fossil fuel depletion are shaping up to become the biggest crises of the century, I implore you to reconsider your knee-jerk rejection of the city's modest, pragmatic efforts to reduce motorized transport and increase non-polluting human-powered transport.
Editor, Raise the Hammer
UPDATE: Councillor Mitchell responds:
Sorry for the poor analogy. It's quite simple actually. The farmers own this land on both sides of the corridor, cultivate the land through the corridor, and have the right to farm it.
Urban people do not respect the rights of farmers now with their perceived right to go anywhere in the green belt as if it is the peoples, when it is not; it is owned by local property owners that for generations have farmed it.
They are losing more and more rights every year. We have fewer farmers every year. To allow people to walk or ride bikes over good farm land because they like trails will only destroy twice the farmland on each side of the corridor and with all the lawsuits that the people bring for liability on that farm land farmers might as well quit altogether.
My point was if a farmer drove his or her snowmobile on an urbanite's front lawn and ripped it all up, the police would be there to lay charges in minutes.
When the urbanite drives his or her bike, ATV, skidoo or just plain tramps across the crops in farmers fields, there is no police response. Half of the time the rural area does not even have officers in the country as they are called into the city for priority one call-outs. No response or very slow response compared to an average 4-6 minutes in the city, yet we pay taxes for the same service level.
Then you say what's wrong with letting people walk across food production land or ride bikes on it. I can go on forever, I'm sorry if you don't get it.
Farmers have some rights too. However, they are rapidly starting to wonder what they are. If this reply doesn't help, the agriculture Community is trying to put on rural agricultural classes to help educate urbanites on what our lives our like and challenges they are faced with.
In saying all this there may be some corridors that will work inside urban boundaries but do not send out maps to urban people to mislead them that these trails will ever exist in good viable farmland because that is a formula to destroy our agriculture area.
Councillor David L. Mitchell
Serving Glanbrook, Winona and Upper Rural Stoney Creek
Dear Councillor Mitchell,
Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful response. It's unfortunate that you seem to be trying to reinforce an urban/rural dichotomy, when some of the biggest supporters of Hamilton's farming community can be found downtown.
Against the threat of sprawl development (single-use subdivisions, strip plazas and box stores, and low-density industrial parks offering low-paying jobs in logistics and warehousing), the 'threat' of having people hike and ride their bikes on dedicated trails through Hamilton's pastoral farmlands seems negligible by comparison.
In fact, the more people discover how beautiful and vital Hamilton's rural environment is, the more likely they'll be willing to help preserve it against the threats undermining the rural way of life that you rightly speak of.
Can I ask a question for clarification? Who actually owns the Hydro corridors? Is it Hydro, the City, or the adjacent property owners?
If it is the farmers themselves, then I can see a viable case for restoring the land to them to use as they see fit. However, if Hydro or the city owns the land, then the situation is not nearly as clear-cut as you make it out to be.
Also, to clarify, the city's plan for the trails is to be used for pedestrians and cyclists - that would be all citizens who want to walk or ride them, not just urban residents.
Have you asked people in your community what they think of having multi-use off-road trails they can access? Certainly no one living adjacent to the Rail Trail or Radial Trail seems to mind it.
Editor, Raise the Hammer
Again, Councillor Mitchell's Reply:
They are all different. Hydro one owns most of the land in rural Hamilton. Some farmers have hundred year leases. Some farmers and longstanding families own the land and easements are granted over it. In most cases, Hydro corridors create separate properties and separate tax bills.
I am passionate about individual property rights and how we seem to have a double standard and we are losing more rights every day.
I love to go down and rollerblade the 16 km Beach Strip paved trail. Trails do have to be built and constructed properly or over and over again human use will pound the ground to dust and every rain the dust and powdered soil washes away and v ditches form and soil degradation occurs very rapidly.
I personally do not think that true environmentalists - or maybe I should call them naturalists, especially if thousands and thousands of them walk over the same trail - realise what damage they are doing.
Trails cost money. Let's just keep them off of our agricultural land so our taxes do not go even higher for trails that should be left growing crops.
Mind you our government does not care about our farmers, nor does most of their grocery store habits support local food production. It is quite possible that beautiful rural trails could be a way of subsidising farm incomes and pay for the lost crop production at a dollar value that at least a decent profit per area could be made.
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