Ditch the car and go for a walk

What do umbrellas, dogs, and tricycles have in common? (Trick question.)

What do umbrellas, dogs, and tricycles have in common? (Trick question.)

The Grand Trunk Pathway (otherwise known as the Millennium Trail), of course! That, and any of the other pleasurable walking routes in Terrace.

On any given day, nearly whatever the weather, one might see or meet any of dozens of people walking Terrace’s trails. In fact, it wouldn’t be unusual to meet more people on the trails than in the Skeena Mall (if one discounts the supermarket).

Physiologists point out that simple walking is one of the most healthful activities available to humans. It’s good for improving muscle tone, for regulating digestion (including promoting weight loss), and simply for improving one’s overall feeling of wellbeing.

Walking connects us to nature. It’s not unusual to encounter wild ducks paddling the waters of Howe Creek along the trail there. And aside from the whish of a breeze in the overhead branches, squirrel chatter and birdsong dominate the soundscape, not engine noise.

Walking is a great way to expand and solidify friendships. When on the trails with a pleasant conversational partner, the miles slip past, and most walking partners take the opportunity to share their lives in a way that is discouraged in front of the television or while dodging traffic.

Construction of these trails was an excellent idea and has helped make Terrace a community that is more pleasantly livable.

In my relative youth I lived for a couple of years in a Denver, Colorado, an American city comparable in size to Vancouver.

One rarely saw anyone walk there except from car to storefront, but I did not have a car. One day, while crossing a freeway overpass on my way home I noticed a couple walking ahead of me.

I breathlessly caught up to them and commented my surprise that they were the first people I had seen actually walking any distance in the city. “We’re from Sweden,” they replied.

 

While few would deny the useful convenience of a vehicle culture, we’ve gone somewhat overboard over the past few decades.

Driving a two-ton 4X4 downtown for a loaf of bread is not only wasteful, it’s unhealthy. Given the increasing problems of diabetes and obesity, more walking, not less, is what we need.

Walking, like biking, requires a bit more patience and preparation than simply throwing ourselves in the car and turning the key.

A fanny pack, or at the least, cargo shorts, allows you to take along a windbreaker or water bottle. Plan to take longer to get places.

But walking on a regular basis has its own rhythms and satisfactions that help you relax more than wear you out.

The City of Terrace recently adopted its community plan, part of which provides a map outlining the current walking trails, as well as routes for proposed future trails.

Now that the plan has been ratified, we should be able to look forward to the incremental development of these routes.

According to the city planner, new pedestrian routes are often created as part of private sector land development.

If a new residential area is to be built, the developer is responsible for creating the city plan pedestrian routes as part of the development. Such an arrangement saves the city money but also makes the new area more appealing to potential buyers.

Trails to be built on public land require the investment of public money, always in short supply to serve competing demands. Sometimes, as with the Millennium Trail, provincial or federal grants may be sourced to assist with the project. Given the deficit status of both provincial and federal governments, help any time soon is unlikely.

Proposed trails include an extension of the Millennium Trail to the Kitsumkalum River, a riverside trail there leading up to the bench near Frank’s Field, as well as connections of the Howe Creek Trail through to the area of Frank Street to connect to the Millennium Trail. Another route includes a bypass over the CN line by the old bridge and runs along the north bank of the Skeena opposite Ferry Island.

If in politics squeaky wheels get greased, and you’re a walker, it’s time to start squeaking.

Al Lehmann teaches school in Terrace, BC.