Last week I wrote about urban cycling in Sudbury, Ontario and mentioned Ramsey Lake. I cycled with local cycling advocates (and drank local beer too) and the day after, I explored a route via the Trans Canada Highway (now known as the Great Trail) to get to the famous Inco Sudbury superstack.
Why is Sudbury called Sudbury?
The community was named for Sudbury, Suffolk, in England, which was the hometown of Canadian Pacific Railway commissioner James Worthington’s wife. Sudbury was incorporated as a town in 1893. The importance of Sudbury’s mineral-rich deposits became apparent during construction of the CPR mainline through the area in 1883. This development led to the creation of the nearby Murray Mine and Sudbury’s emergence as the economic capital of Northern Ontario (source: CPR)
This week, I am going to take you on a bike trip to Ramsey Lake, a lake close to downtown Sudbury. The lake was known to the local Ojibwe population as Bitimagamasing, or “water that lies on the side of the hill” (Wikipedia).
Serious air pollution from Inco’s (now Vale) mining operations turned Ramsey Lake into a dead lake though but when the towering superstack was built in 1972, the smelter emissions were spread over a larger area and with some help Ramsey Lake got its aquatic life back. Meanwhile the stack kept dumping smelter emissions, it just fell further away and more spread out.
Unfortunately, just now life is back in the lake, the Greater Sudbury Watershed Alliance sounds the alarm bell: they have measured that the salt and chloride levels in Ramsey Lake are approaching critically high levels, due in large part to the use of winter road salt.
Trails along Ramsey Lake
The lake is just under 2000 acres big; it should be fairly easy to bike around it. (2000 acres is roughly the surface of Ottawa’s Centretown, the Glebe and Old Ottawa South combined) and I would love to do that one day, but we also wanted to drive home the same day. Part of the route looked like unpaved dirt trails so we chose to take a shorter loop. It looks like it does require a mountain bike for some off road cycling in the south east area of the lake.
Rusty 1960’s bike bridge
We started out from our downtown dead mall hotel and biked towards the Science North centre, but not before we had to check out a neighbourhood where one of Karen’s colleagues lives. By cycling via a rusty 1960’s ped and bike bridge over railway tracks and the Bell Park on the north shore of the lake we attempted to avoid the bigger arterials.
We weren’t always sure if we were allowed to bike in a certain area, but we didn’t appear to bother the few pedestrians, so I think we were OK. Via the Jim Gordon (former mayor) boardwalk, we reached Science North but not before taking a quick peek at the Grace Hartman amphitheatre. What a great location.
We skipped the Science North museum (sorry, Julie Payette) and set out for a bit of bike infrastructure along Paris Rd and east on Ramsey Lake Rd. There is a nice path on the south side that gets you to the enormous property of Laurentian University. We did a loop on the university’s lands and then continued our travels along South Bay Rd. I am assuming Laurentian is known for its mining education, but I see there is also a Franco Ontarien Folklore Centre.
TCT becomes hiking trail along Ramsey Lake
More searching and studying on our smartphones was required but eventually we figured out we had to turn into Arlington Blvd to hook up with the Trans Canada Trail that starts off Arlington and dips into the woods again. The Trail becomes a hiking trail on which Karen was not comfortable cycling part of the time. There are rocks and fairly steep descents and ascents and Karen walked her bike more than once.
Views over the lake
We were awarded with some nice views over the lake. With the sun breaking through the clouds Sudbury started to look even friendlier. Eventually the trail dips to water level and all of a sudden a beautiful boardwalk appeared. Note at this point, we are not cycling around Ramsey Lake, but circumventing smaller Bethel Lake. Sudbury, boardwalk capital of Ontario!
Looping back around the lake was easy on a quiet residential road. We cycled pretty much the same way back, across the railway tracks, past Cosmic Dave’s and into downtown. And what is the chance: we bumped into someone on a bike we had met last night!
Golden Grain Bakery
To buy some bread from the famous Golden Grain Bakery, we detoured a bit, but unfortunately, they were sold out and it looks like they just close the shop once the bread is sold out. That was a bit of a bummer, but at least we can say we tried.
Golden Grain Bakery is one of those quintessential Canadian immigrant stories and you really want to read the story here: Croatian travels to Canada in 1928, finds work in Sudbury as a miner, bakes bread after his shift, brings family over, starts bakery, delivers by tobbogan when there is too much snow to drive the (unheated) van.
I have heard from Sudbury’s active transportation coordinator Marisa Talarico that things are going into the right direction for cycling. From my rides in Sudbury, I learned that Sudbury would greatly benefit from a simple minimum grid, which the Sudbury Cycling Union is calling for.
The roads are wide enough to make some adjustments here and there and many streets are quiet enough that you can easily share the road or put a few bike lanes in. The challenge are the arterials. But as I often say, if you can’t figure out the arterials yet, focus on local cycling first instead, because that’s where you get people on the bike first.
But.. this is a wintercity
I often meet decisionmakers in Ottawa (and we have a few new ones since the elections) who tell me that Ottawa is too big to cycle. But the mistake they make is that they assume residents cycle from the far edge of town to the other far edge of town.
But it is really the local bike traffic you want to tackle: people who live 2 km away from the library or the sports bar.
From what I have seen in Sudbury, the city has great opportunities to improve cycling. None of the three rides (17, 8 and 22 km) I did were challenging. And yes, it might be snowy six months of the year, but on the other hand the other six months it isn’t.