Thursday, November 4, 2010

Save Ottawa Cyclocross!

This Sunday's race at Mooney's Bay has been cancelled, as the city has cancelled the Series' permits to use city parked for cyclocross. Almonte will be the race venue. The city claims damage to grass is the issue, and have refused to engage in an appeal process. In more than 20 years of cyclocross racing in Ottawa, there has never been an outstanding damage issue, and there is ample evidence showing grass surfaces recover rather quickly from races' wear and tear.

We've started a facebook page with info, link to councilors' contact info, and a sample letter (also below). We encourage you to send to your councilor (present and future) and mayors (O'Brien and Watson) to urge an appeal process be initiated to address this conflict. Securing suitable venues for cyclocross in Ottawa is already very challenging. We can't afford to lose the use of city parks; I'm sure we'd all like to see cyclocross thrive, so lets speak up! Listen to CBC Ottawa Morning on Friday for an interview with Bob Woods on this issue.

Hello (insert councilor/mayor's name, present and future),

I am a resident in your ward/an Ottawa resident and a participant in the Ottawa Bicycle Club Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series. This week the permits for use of the City of Ottawa parks by the Ottawa Bicycle Club Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series were revoked.  I am quite concerned about the fate of the Series after learning that city staff have revoked permits based on the misperception that the parks are being seriously damaged and no opportunity to appeal the decision has been afforded to the Series' organizers.This is the first time permits have been revoked in over 20 years, yet the impacts of this season's racing are not uncharacteristic for a wet fall.  

The main issue is the city’s perception that the races are damaging parks. A formal appeal of the decision was refused by city staff. It seems like a very important decision was taken in a very undemocratic manner. Please visit the following website for more information on the typical rehabilitation of park surfaces after cyclocross races are held: 

Here is a clear breakdown of the situation:

1. There is minor, cosmetic damage visible during the fall from the races. This is the case in wherever cyclocross races are run in damp conditions worldwide. However, like other cities, we continue to find that after each winter any sign of racing is healed by the early spring grass growth. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell where we have been by spring. Two decades of experiences support these observations.

 2. The city staff offered no options for dealing with their concerns. They were not looking at viable solutions nor were they interested in dealing with a client of 20 years.  We are not valued as customers, we pay to use the parks, or as citizens. Indeed, the city staff have suggested that we relocate to Gatineau. I fail to see why Gatineau's parks would be immune to the impacts of cyclocross racing.

 By contrast, communities that host races outside of Ottawa have expressed their appreciation of our events and note the business that they generate for their towns.

 3. After more 20 years with no problems, it is difficult to understand how permits can be revoked virtually overnight, mid-season without recourse (an appeal process)?

 4. The city staff says that the situation is particularly bad this year because of the rain.  We have had other rainy cyclocross seasons over the last 20 years but damage was not been a problem. We ride in the rain. and it rains in the fall. Several sports which use the grass in city parks are not banned when the ground is wet except in the early spring. (When, of course, we don’t race.) Why is cross different? Will the city be considering banning cross country running events, such as the 2011 OFSAA, in city parks? Cross country running also leads to grass wear and tear.

 5. The cyclocross series generates a sales significant for local small business owners who run bike stores during what would otherwise be an off-season.

 6. The series generates significant economic spin-off for other merchants including restaurant owners and gas retailers. 

 7. The cyclocross series is an excellent physical fitness option for a broad range of citizens of all ages from young children to retirees.

 8. How many other events in parks have been cancelled this year due to wet conditions or rain? For example, are outdoor festivals and concerts cancelled due to rain? Is it tenable to claim that cyclocross events damage grass surfaces more than thousands of festival-goers in wet conditions?

 9. Over the past 20 years, the only complaints Series organizers have had to deal with related to a few people objecting to sharing parks with bike riders for one day.  Before this year, there have never been complaints about he condition of the parks in the fall or spring.

 Proposed Solution
  • Allow the races to continue under the original permits.  If there is apparent turf damage in the spring the cyclocross community will step up and do repairs or contribute in some other manner, such as collecting trash.

Background info
- Riders in or series range in age from 6 to 70.
- There are approximately 180 riders each Sunday.
- There are 260 riders registered for the complete series.
- Riders come from all over Eastern Ontario (Cornwall, Kingston, Brockville, Renfrew, Deep River, Perth, Almonte), Quebec and the northern United States to race and they all spend money while here.
- The series has generated riders who have gone on to win provincial and national cyclocross championships.  Some race internationally. They have represented Canada at World Cyclocross Championships.
- Both provincial and national cyclocross championships have been held in Ottawa at the Mooney’s Bay Park in past years.
- While still a peripheral cycling discipline, cyclocross is quickly becoming one of the most popular cycling disciplines in North America, attracting riders of all ages and abilities, and contributing to the broader cycling culture. 
- In many European countries, cyclocross is as popular as hockey in Canada. Races are held in parks in town centres throughout the winter, attracting fans from surrounding communities, often numbering in the thousands. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

ottawa is for old farts...
yah gotta buy a good ol couch and sit like 99.9999% of the population.
Be good little citizens. Spend your weekends shopping will yah!

time to move. I'm looking at Vancouver. Vancouver is wicked for sports... all sports... right up to the really extreme stuff.

Old farts need not follow. They can stay in ottawa!

its an old government town with everyone waiting for that retirement cheque....