Adventure Running is an activity that adheres to sound environmental practices.
The sport of orienteering is most popular in Europe where many thousands of people take part in a single event. Competitors navigate to a series of checkpoints that are marked on a detailed map. There are approximately 500 orienteers in southern Ontario, and Golden Horseshoe Orienteering has surveyed over 50 maps. The events usually involve about 50 people, occasionally as many as 250. Every few years a large event (such as the 2006 North American Championships) is hosted with about 300 people. At each event there are typically many different courses (maps with marked locations that the person must visit) designed for beginners and for experts, with varying lengths and levels of difficulty. At large events there are often over 10 different courses, meaning that a limited number of participants travel between the same two points in the forest, usually taking different routes. Participants do not traverse terrain indiscriminately but consciously and subconsciously select the most energy-effective microroute. This means avoiding bushes, plant clumps, logs and piles of litter, preferring instead firmer and usually bare patches on which to place the feet. Moreover, participants seldom follow the same route, so there is little or no impact to the forest. As such orienteering is a sport that does not lead to the creation of spontaneous trails. Orienteers often use designated trails during an event, but events are so infrequent that there is no conflict with other trail users. When traveling on trails, orienteering is essentially the same activity as hiking or trail running.
A Controlled Activity
Orienteering is a 'controlled' activity in that we do not permit people to do the sport unless it is part of an official event hosted by certified Canadian Orienteering Federation officials. It is rare for any one area to be used for more than one or two official events per year, as the challenge of orienteering increases when participants are less familiar with the terrain. We designate environmentally sensitive areas, private land, and non-designated trails as out-of-bounds on our orienteering maps to control where participants can and can't go. Our maps are in electronic format so that we can update them easily.
An Environmentally Sustainable Activity
Golden Horseshoe Orienteering Inc. is committed to an environmentally sustainable sport and have developed the following strategies to ensure lasting relationships with landowners:
1. We have a set of standard guidelines for conducting and executing events in order to minimize or eliminate environmental impact.
2. We have developed procedures for the avoidance of environmentally sensitive areas such as nesting areas and sensitive wetlands.
3. We have asked our membership to come forward with ideas / views on how to address environmental issues.
4. We are actively gaining and/or strengthening current and potential contacts within Conservation Authorities, Ontario/Canada Parks and other environmental bodies both to learn about new strategies in conservation and to promote the sport.
5. We update all landowners of potential events long before the season begins. All landowners are contacted for permission to use the area for every event.
Golden Horseshoe Orienteering has been working under these environmental guidelines for many years. In addition, we have worked closely with various Conservation Authorities, respecting the NEPOSS policies for events taking place within the Niagara Escarpment Plan area.
Many scientific studies on the activity of orienteering and its impact on the Environment have been conducted. All of the studies demonstrate that orienteers do little short-term and no lasting environmental damage to any area that they use. In Europe, where some of the largest orienteering events in the world are held (>10,000 participants), studies have been conducted by Orienteering Federations along with the Government Departments for Environmental Sciences. The results of these studies have shown that little, if any; permanent damage is done to any plant life.
For example, the Danish Orienteering Federation reports that races with less than 100 entrants do not cause problems to the environment (not even during early spring) and therefore do not need to be restricted. Germany and France have rules stating that events with more than 100 participants should be limited to one such event in a given tract of forest in the spring. In Ontario, most orienteering events have about 75 participants, further divided into smaller groups of competitors traveling several different race courses.
Wetlands are not used as checkpoint locations and crossing these sensitive ecosystems is not permitted. These areas and other sensitive areas are marked out-of-bounds on the maps and officials on the race course enforce this. Orienteering is a low impact sport and we do not impact existing trails nor do we create new trails. We are aware of the sensitivity of certain terrain and particular species (nesting birds, deer, salamanders). If a course connecting areas must pass through a sensitive area, it does so only on designated official trails.
For more information contact our environmental officer, Dr. Mike Waddington.
Dr. Waddington is a Professor of Environmental Science at McMaster University. He has over 25 years of expertise in wetland hydrology and ecosystem restoration and has been an active orienteer and adventure runner for over 35 years.
J.M. Waddington, Ph.D.
Tel: 905.525.9140 x 23217