York Urbanist

Posts Tagged ‘recreation’


April 20th, 2014
Curling, Recreation

In the coming weeks, this blog will create a hypothetical and entrepreneurial approach to rebuilding the sport of curling in the fictional community of Aasvogel, Ontario.  The story is based on a true life and death of a curling club. Curling is not a dying sport as reported elsewhere. The seeds of curling are able to be planted in any community.

Starting as a Dutch farm community, the village became affected by the changing Greater Toronto Area.  The farm-predominant community looked for activities for the winter. Scots farm immigrants had started a four-sheet curling club in 1951.The Scots imported curling and together one hundred formed a group who built a community centre mostly with volunteer labour and donated materials. Through the 1950’s and 1960’s, the membership grew to 250 but little else changed. Volunteers continued to run the club, making ice, catering events and running leagues for men.  Children of the founding members, baby boomers, provided the regeneration needed to sustain the club into the golden years of curling, the 1970’s. But some things changed.  The third generation was not large enough to provide natural growth for the club. Women wanted to join.  Opportunities to leave the community drew high schoolers to universities away from home. 

But alas, the community demographics changed while the curling membership stood still. Attrition at the normal rate of 15% was not countered by new members from a changing community.  Word-of-mouth had always worked in the past (1951 to 1980). But the club closed in 1988, unable to meet cost obligations. In 2014, the community of Aasvogel is a typical suburban community, population 20,000, whose cultural makeup continues to change.

So what happened?

During the later life of the club, new generations of immigrants and urban dwellers were buying into the community, because there was more land for less cost.  The town population was growing but the club membership was shrinking.

And the sport, in 1988, was isolated to a knowledgeable group of recreationists.

The volunteer board struggled with the shrinkage, not risking their friendships in the farm community by changing directions and fees. Why change what worked in the past?

Finally, the cost of replacing the 30 year-old compressor and plant parts would require $300,000. With fewer than 200 members, the board could not find the money through either donations nor fee increases and the club was forced to close.

What really went wrong?

Fear of Change: This was a proud club formed around a distinct demographic.  The members became comfortable, so much so that there was little long-term planning. The demographic change was coincident with population growth.  The club board failed to engage the new community members. 

Competition: The new community members were unfamiliar with the sport, the Town of Aasvogel built and subsidized an arena in which hockey dominated.  The arena was multi-functional, providing a facility available to the new community members.

Planning, Operations and Budget: The aging curling building had construction/maintenance problems, making it a hazardous facility, and not up to current regulations.  Without capital having been accumulated to cover depreciation of the asset, there was no fund to replace the asset.

Weakening Voluntarism:  Suburbanization caused families to spend more time commuting to workplaces.  Women joined the workforce in ever increasing numbers.  Adult volunteers became more scarce daytime and evenings.  The operations of the formerly volunteer run club struggled to continue without changing their program.

Demographic Change: The former curling demographic no longer could populate the club naturally. The new immigrant population was not educated about the sport.  The aging population does not bode well for the future of the curling club.

Does any of this hit home?  In the coming articles, we suggest that a new community curling facility can be built. We will break the steps down in each article.

Go to http://yorkurbanist.com/recreation/curling/curling-a-recreation-to-a-business/re-forming-the-core-group/ to see the next steps.



Humber Valley East Trail and Hiking Rules

January 10th, 2013

York Region has many developed hiking trails for the urban hiker.  The best is still one that ranges from Kleinburg to Woodbridge following the Humber River East Branch. It appeals to all our senses.

The valley is so incised and wide as to allow the hiker to escape the harsh reality of urban light and noise.  The smells can either take you back to your childhood or send you into a sneezing fit.  The paved surface of the trail allows the not-so-avid recreationist the opportunity to experience the outdoors, but the adventurer is allowed to wander off trail to the edges of the valley where the sense of touch comes into play.  We trudge through snow or brush against brush.  Through four seasons, the experienced naturalist can even taste the outdoors. Yes, even winter has its hang-over seeds and fruits.  Get out and breathe the filtered air and take an active lifestyle that will relieve the stressors of the daily routine. See what previous hikes encouraged on the Humber River valley at http://yorkurbanist.com/trails/humber-valley-heritage-trail/

But respect the trails. Take stewardship of them for your next use and for the generation that follows.  Keep litter to your person, avoid taking pets that upset the natural inclinations of wildlife, and greet those other trail users in the most friendly manner as they share your ideals of a walk with nature.

Although urban trails are in a dissimilar context, I am repeating these Hiking Rules from http://www.canadianliving.com/health/fitness/how_to_start_hiking_4.php and Michael Haynes, with whom I have worked on a trails project.  Michael is well known in the hiking world having had his own CBC radio program and having authored a  hiking book.

“Rules to live by….
Safety first
Inconsiderate, ill-informed hikers are the scourge of the trails. For one thing, flicked cigarette butts or flying embers from campfires have started many forest fires. If you must build a fire, the Canada Safety Council recommends clearing an area with a three-metre diameter, making a circle of rocks around the fire and keeping a bucket of water, sand and a shovel nearby.

“I would always discourage people from lighting fires in the backcountry,” says Southam. “It can be damaging to what are often very fragile environments. That said, I think you should carry some waterproof matches in the event that you need to light a fire for safety purposes.”

If you absolutely must indulge in hot soup or tea on the trail, buy a lightweight stove. Some butane stoves are small enough to fit in your pocket.

Leave no footprints nor …
• Scoop when you poop. If fire is the No. 1 problem on trails, No. 2 could be, well, number two. With no outhouses on many long trails, poorly placed poops can be a disgusting problem. Leave No Trace Canada, a national nonprofit organization, advises hikers to dig a hole 15 to 20 centimetres deep and at least 60 metres from water and trails. Cover the hole when you are finished, and don’t leave your used toilet paper on the trail. Ideally you should seal it in a plastic bag and take it off the trail, but at the very least, bury it.
• Pack out what you pack in. Litter is another scourge of the hiking trail. Glass, cans and plastic are not just visually offensive, they can harm animals and people.

• Leave Fido at home.
While dogs are a fixture on many trails, some die-hard hikers believe dogs should stay home. Some trails actually have no-dog policies. “It’s from dog feces more than anything else that water sources get contaminated,” says Haynes. Haynes adds if dogs do need to accompany you, you should always keep them on a leash.

Additional rules
• Don’t hike alone.
• Check the weather forecast before you head out.
• Carry a map and compass with you, even if you have a GPS.
• If you don’t know the area, study a map before you hike.
• Obey all posted signs.
• Tell someone where you’re going and when you will be returning.
• Keep the noise down.
• Leave the alcohol at home.

Choosing your trail
Just as a new swimmer isn’t going to breaststroke across the English Channel, a novice hiker has to pace herself. Some longer trails, especially ones with steep hills, demand a fairly high level of fitness. Haynes recommends beginners should start at five kilometres or less (one to two hours) for their first few walks. Flat trails of up to 10 kilometres may be fine as well, but new hikers shouldn’t attempt longer routes. Trails beyond 15 kilometres – or 10 kilometres with a significant climb – are best left to the more experienced hikers. Most formal trails will tell you the distance, and some will rate the level of difficulty. And if you have a topographic map, you can quickly see if there are any steep hills.

Whether you want to take a sweet afternoon stroll or spend four nights sleeping in the wilderness, there’s a trail out there for you. For getting fit, clearing your head, escaping the concrete and getting to see some of Canada’s most stunning scenery, it’s hard to find anything better than taking a hike. “

Following Team Keon – The Dominion

November 20th, 2012
Recreation, Sports
We are deep into curling season and a national championship is upon us.

Team Ontario - Jordan Keon; Curtis Samoy; Trevor Talbott; Michael Keon

Team Keon became Team Ontario at the national Dominion Championships. They won their first game. Expect great things from this Richmond Hill Team.
See more curling at http://yorkurbanist.com/curling/ and http://www.curling.ca/thedominioncurls/about/
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team Nova Scotia for second win.
UPDATE: Team Newfoundland defeats Team Ontario 5-1 after taking commanding 4-0 lead in second end.
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team Quebec 8-4; three undefeated teams ahead – MB, AB, SK – nothing else to do than curl on the Prairies.
UPDATE: Team Ontario defeats Team PEI 9-1, More potatoes for dinner! Red dirt trails seen leaving Scarborough GC&C; Prairie lads can’t lose (do they not play each other?)
UPDATE: Team Saskatchewan prairie rolls over Team Ontario 7-4 proving that the westerners are more comfortable on flat surfaces.
UPDATE: Team Ontario wins tiebreaker against Newfoundland. 9-4; Islanders Rocked in the second with a five-ender. Blue-noses next
UPDATE: The road ended in Nova Scotia for the Team Ontario – 8-4, having given up a trey in the 8th.

Economics and Gold Medals

July 18th, 2012
Recreation, Sports

“Hawksworth says the secret to defying economy-based medal projections is specialization. Kenya might not be able to produce medal winners in a range of events, but it can devote resources to developing the country’s deep pool of talented distance runners.” An article http://www.thestar.com/business/article/1227825–london-2012-best-predictor-of-a-country-s-olympic-success-it-s-the-economy-stupid in July 18 2012 Toronto Star has implications. Resources need to be applied where a country can best achieve. Kenya and Jamaica are the examples. Despite lagging economies, each is 17th and 20th respectively in medal counts…because of specialization.  USA has the largest economy and projects that its Olympic haul will also be the greatest. Second in both will be China.

Scale this down to the municipal level, and the same can be achieved. A pool and program in Ocean Falls, BC turned out Canada’s best swimmers in the 1970′s. During the same period, some of the best badminton players came from a small town near Sudbury, Ontario. Back then, it was more about the enthusiasm of the select group that drove success. Today, sports is driven by investments of time and money. Emphasizing special recreation pursuits in one municipality is the best way to increase notoriety (read marketing) and get best bang for the buck.

When you read Recreation Master Plans, inevitably the top recreation is trails followed by swimming. Dig deeper! What is the municipality known for? What individuals and groups are driving sports in town? King Township, Ontario had that happen when the curling community dominated all recreation masterplanning events. With tenacity, a new rink was built.

Epilogue: The future for recreation and municipal marketing should be specialization. The gold goes to the municipality that can sort through the recreation demands and find the gem that will catapult them into the public eye.

Community Planning

April 10th, 2012

There are some things that urban designers cannot plan. Just received my copy of The Spirit, a Kleinburg community newsletter. Spring has brought out activities in all facets of the village – tennis opening; trail hikes; McMichael gallery; plant sales; the list goes on.

What Urban Designers can do is provide the opportunities for such community occurences. Usually our designs build on already existing programs. Excellent designers anticipate what could happen and accommodate such potential in their land use planning and public space design.
The Spirit can be found on www.KARA-Inc.ca.

The Waterfront Series

February 14th, 2012
Urban Design, Waterfront

What makes a waterfront?  Seems like a simple question, but our answers may surprise.  The coming series will invite you to examine your municipality and its waterfront.  Unless yours is a prairie desert, you have a waterfront.  It is both a current and historical asset that summons attention.

Historically, villages, then towns, then cities have grown up on the water…the essence of life. Clean water provides a healthy existence in many ways – drinking, washing, cleaning, cooling, heating, power generation, social solace, and recreation.

Toronto for years accepted its central waterfront as its economic generator, ignoring the complexity of its social and recreation benefits.  Today, late in its development, it struggles with what to do because there are so many stakeholders with conflicting visions. John Tory has his work cut out for him dealing with Ontario Place.

In York Region, Vaughan misunderstood that it, too, has waterfront(s). Major rivers, Humber and Don, flow through it, as the rivers’ natural valleys are squeezed and ignored as major assets. Rears of properties back onto the edges of the valleys, disguising this immense benefit, but evidencing the folly of 1980′s planning. Meanwhile, former Mayor Tom Taylor of Newmarket embraced the Holland River as the Town’s core social and recreation asset.  He and the council of the time, by funding a simple trail, invited Newmarket residents to the river’s side, to learn of its history and engage in its calming, albeit minor, flow of water.

The good news in York Region is that TRCA is committed to protection of the valleys.  And the creation of Rouge Valley Urban Wilderness Park http://www.rougepark.com/ is further evidence of the understanding that waterfronts are more than expanses of lakes. 

Stay tuned over the next several weeks.

Mark Inglis is a landscape architect and urban designer who has presented his visions of waterfronts at conferences and to students of landscape architecture. His waterfront works have been expressed in three Canadian provinces, Central America and the Caribbean.

Glacier discovery Walk

January 31st, 2012


A dramatic and award winning concept falls to the federal touch and phenomenon.

Winnipeg's Warming

January 26th, 2012

Check out the website for the competition for warming huts. http://www.warminghuts.com/v2012.html

New Street Sport

January 11th, 2012
Recreation, Uncategorized

Sometimes a youtube video comes along that combines both our love of sport and urban design.

A new Street Sport emerges, Watch:


Curling Clubs

November 20th, 2011

Visited East York Curling Club for a bonspiel yesterday. During the event the Compressor stopped and was out for three hours making play unpleasant.

This is a harbinger for most of the curling facilities built in their heydays of 1960′s. Not only are the plants needing replacement, but the functionality of the spaces ‘behind the glass’ have not kept current.

Issues: City owned properties follow standard protocols that do not keep up with sport improvements. The club is encumbered by the bureaucracy and unable to engage the members. Other clubs suffer from lack of planning for capital costs in the future.

Remedy: Lease buildings from municipalities and operate independently, including building improvements. Administer a capital fund of about $10 per month on each member.