Help Save Ottawa Cyclocross

The folks over at Tall Tree Cycles have created a Facebook page to try and mobilize the cycling community in an effort to get the City of Ottawa to reverse its decision to boot cyclocross out of city parks.

Below is the letter we sent off earlier today…  In addition to our Ontario crew, I would appreciate it if our Alberta teammates who have either sampled, or aspire to sample, the finest cyclocross racing in the country, would take a few moments and fire an e-mail off to Ottawa’s current mayor (Larry.OBrien@ottawa.ca) and mayor-elect Jim Watson (info@jimwatson.ca).  It is also possible to send a message directly to Dan Chenier, the manager responsible for the decision by e-mail , or you could give him a call: 613-580-2424 ext 24295.

____

Dear Blah Blah Blah…

This past week, the City of Ottawa Parks Department (managed by Dan Chenier) cancelled permits issued to the Ottawa Bicycle Club to host a number of races in the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series. I strongly urge you to raise this matter with your colleagues and demand that officials reverse this rash and ill thought-out decision.

Every Sunday, from the end of September until the beginning of December, approximately 180 cyclocross racers meet in various public parks across eastern Ontario to enjoy a morning outside, getting exercise, and spending time with family and friends. Cyclocross races are unique — I can not think of another organized sporting event that witnesses 6 year old children racing their hearts out along side 70 year-old retirees and elite, world-class cyclists.

For over 20 years, cyclists from all over Ontario, Quebec, and the eastern United States have been fortunate enough to race in Ottawa city parks. Imagine our surprise when this week we learned that the City had unilaterally, without warning or any possibility of appeal, revoked the permits that had been issued, without concern, for the past 20 years.

We understand that City staff have expressed concern that the races are hurting the grass. Twenty years of experience should be enough to demonstrate that this is simply false. Just like other events hosted in city parks (including music festivals, ultimate frisbee tournaments, soccer tournaments, and so on) grass quickly grows back after every race and any evidence that the event has occurred disappears. In fact, two races took place in Britannia Park earlier this fall and I challenge city management to visit the park and find any evidence that the races even took place.

What makes this decision even more galling, is the fact that the City of Ottawa claims to be a “cyclists paradise”. In an age of growing obesity, childhood diabetes, and depression among the elderly, this decision from Ottawa City Hall is both short sighted and detrimental to the health and long-term well-being of the community its supposed to serve. This decision forces me to question the City’s priorities — the health of the grass, or the health of its citizens?

Cyclocross is the fastest growing component of competitive cycling in North America. The Eastern Ontario Series is well regarded as being one of the best race series in Canada. It attracts (and breeds) world class athletes, as well encouraging amateur cyclists to get out and compete. All of this generates significant economic revenue for local business.

In closing, I urge you to raise this issue with your new council colleagues, and demand that the Parks Department reverse its decision and immediately reinstate the permits previously issued for the Eastern Ontario Cyclocross Series.

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