This month, the City of Fredericton released the final draft of its Odell Park Management Plan.
Most of the proposed modifications will help protect the fragile ecosystem and are reasonable – in an urban park, they aim to protect nature while enabling recreational use. One, however, is clearly not and raises concerns: the use of asphalt on trails.
The plan’s aim is to conserve Odell’s “amazing ecological heritage… for all to enjoy, including Fredericton residents and eco-tourists alike.” The park will be divided into three zones (Conservation, Natural Environment and Recreation), each managed according to its ecological sensitivity.
Park users can expect some trails to become “elevated boardwalks wherever they pass through sensitive ecologies,” some to be “raised off the ground at points to allow for regeneration of the forest floor,” and some – deemed “unsanctioned” – to disappear altogether.
However, under “Key Management Items” for each intended zone, the draft plan proposes “guided [trails] with asphalt surface” (see repeated mentions on pages 29, 30, 31, 33, and 37).
A nature park is no place for asphalt paving. Asphalt, a petroleum-based material that repels water, reflects heat, and smothers the ground (the soil underneath no longer “breathes”) is damaging to the natural environment. It is also an eyesore and an unpleasant surface for hiking.
Who really wishes to go for a walk in the woods on a surface designed for motor vehicles? Far better would be for the City to choose crusher dust for it trails as this absorbs moisture and heat, allows the ground to breathe, and fits better with the natural setting.
City planners may have concerns regarding drainage and springtime wash-outs, but these challenges have been met in the past through use of ditches alongside trails and the installation of pipes passing underneath that carry away water (asphalt actually exacerbates water erosion as it allows for no absorption and the rain sheets off, worsening erosion at the sides of the trail).
Many reluctantly agree to using asphalt thinking it is the only way to make trails accessible, but I would argue that other surfaces, such as crusher dust, are just as accessible to users and have been recommended, I understand, by Ability NB.
“The City of Fredericton has preserved in Odell Park a gift of nature that cannot be found elsewhere in eastern Canada,” said Alwyn J. Cameron, J. Douglas Long, and Lawney E. Williams, the founding fathers of Odell Park (draft plan, p.7). Asphalt paving belies that “gift of nature” and does not fit with a vision of the park that is ecologically sensitive.
Asphalt is a surface meant for cars and car parks. The City needs to eliminate it as a trail surfacing option from its eco-management plans for Fredericton’s most treasured urban park.
Keep asphalt paving out of Odell Park! The public has until 28 February, 2020 to respond to the City’s draft plan.
Odell Park Management Plan (final draft, February, 2020):
City of Fredericton: Tel. (506) 460 2020 or (506) 460 2042
Mayor of Fredericton: Mike O’Brien: mike.o’firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
John Macdermid: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate Rogers: email@example.com
Henri Mallet: firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephen Chase: email@example.com
Greg Ericson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Darrah: email@example.com
Eric Megarity: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Hicks: email@example.com
Eric Price: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bruce Grandy: email@example.com
Mark Peters: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dan Keenan: email@example.com
Tony Robinson-Smith is a part-time professor at the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University and frequent walker and bird-watcher in Odell Park.