Just about a month and half ago, on the evening of June 24, I made my way to the entrance of the Loach’s walking trail located on the grounds of Laurentian University to meet up with five local high school students.
As part of the community effort to raise awareness about the value of the LU greenspace, these students had been recruited to monitor the number of people at some of the main access points over a period of one week. The objective: demonstrate the extent to which this greenspace is used by the community.
For the students, this was an opportunity to complete some of the community service hours they are required to do for graduation. I was quite certain that very few people would show up on that grey and misty evening. Well, I was wrong. Over a two-hour period, a total of 53 people of all ages had accessed the greenspace.
Over the course of one week, the students continued to monitor some of the main trailheads daily, in two- to three-hour blocks, for a total of 17 hours. In all, the students counted 874 people. That’s an average of over 51 individuals per hour. Not bad for a week of mostly grey, rainy weather.
On July 3, the final day of monitoring, the sun broke through and, over a 2.5-hour period on that sunny Saturday afternoon, 210 people entered the greenspace, many of whom making their way to the LU beach on the shores of Lake Nepahwin. An average of 84 per hour.
To get a better idea as to who in the city uses the LU greenspace, the students were also tasked with carrying out surveys. Although, as expected, many users of the greenspace live in the South End, the 132 surveys conducted revealed that people from all over Greater Sudbury accessed the greenspace over the course of that week: from downtown to The Donovan to the Flour Mill to Copper Cliff to Minnow Lake to New Sudbury to the Valley, and as far as Capreol. Most people surveyed reported using the greenspace year-round and at least once a week. There were also visitors from Toronto, Barrie and Kitchener Waterloo.
The LU greenspace is well used and very much valued by our community. This natural 231-hectare area is home to the Laurentian Beach and many well-loved hiking, biking, ski and snowshoe trails.
Located in the heart of the city, it is easily accessible by bike, public transit and private vehicle. When my kids were members of the Laurentian Nordic Race Team, they would often hop on the city bus to get to their after-school ski practice which, for me, made the often-difficult juggling act of work and family responsibilities much more manageable.
That’s what makes the LU greenspace so wonderful and invaluable: it’s an ‘easy-to-get-to’ place where one can walk, hike, bike, swim or ski. It’s a place to relax, connect with nature, discover wildlife, take in the natural beauty, and recharge the batteries. It’s a place for everyone. And it needs to stay that way.