What does the future hold for the SJAM Winter Trail?

Submitted by Dave Adams – 

Holy smokes! We did a proof-of-concept in the winter of 2015 of the SJAM and here we are today having concluded our third official season of the SJAM Winter Trail. Time flies. Who says winters are long, bleak and dull?  

Dave Adams, a.k.a. Groomer Dave, SJAM Winter Trail Ottawa
It’s time to plan for the future, writes Dave Adams, a.k.a. Groomer Dave. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

I think the trail has surprised us all on how well it has been adopted by the community and the scary reality is that there is no turning back. It is unconscionable to think of the Ottawa River multi-use pathway, or bike path, NOT having winter trail in the future.

Up to now, the SJAM had been considered an experiment and that is why Dovercourt (my representative) and the NCC originally settled on a three year agreement to let me show the potential of the trail. This term is now up and it is time to plan the future. There is no doubt we will continue to groom, but under a new agreement.

So, in hindsight, what have we learned? To start with, urban winter pathways are good. They make our city livable. They get people out and active in winter. Help people commute to work.  Get them saying ‘hi’ to their neighbours at a time of year that folks typically become groundhogs. (Did you know, loneliness is the new smoking?)

We also know that our weather is changing, and freeze/thaw cycles are now common. Grooming ice is very difficult, but the good news is that it can be done and urban winter pathways can handle diverse weather better than say, ice rinks that need a very precise and consistent weather condition. We all recall that week in February where walking down the icy city sidewalks was treacherous, and it was a very proud moment in the season for the grooming team where we continued to groom and provide a safe place for people to recreate and stay active. I hope the City of Ottawa appreciates the public service that we provided.    

Over the past three seasons, we also learned that we cannot proceed without public funding. Try as we might, and with all our fundraising efforts, we ran a deficit this season. And it wasn’t for lack of trying. Businesses have certainly stepped up with their sponsorships and the general public remains as generous as they have been since the beginning, but it wasn’t enough to balance our books.

And finally, we know that other communities want an SJAM of their own. And can you blame them? The National Capital Region is gifted with tons of greenspaces that lay vacant in winter, and so why not get some snow grooming on-site and make some trails?

So that is my summer – dreaming up plans for the future. Fortunately, I will have lots of help. For starters, I have an open relationship with the NCC and am always welcome to go “slum it” in their downtown offices chatting about ideas for winter. We have also formed a subcommittee with other communities that want to develop their own winter trail network. It is called the WTA, or Winter Trails Alliance, and is made up of Ski Heritage East, Rideau River, Kanata Nordic, and together we are working with city councillors to find ways the City of Ottawa can participate in the future; possibly in cooperation with the NCC.

See you next winter! If anything comes up that is important, I will post to social media but I try hard to limit my posts to give you a break from the bombardment of information I throw at you during winter. You can find a link to all of our social media channels at wintertrail.ca.

Groomer Dave Adams
SJAM Winter Trail Manager and Head Groomer


Looking ahead to a new season on the SJAM

By Jacob Hoytema – 

Before their first full season last winter, the organizers of the Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Winter Trail envisioned the trail becoming a regular community fixture where Ottawans could enjoy many types of winter sports. With a new season soon to begin, head groomer Dave Adams says the trail is quickly carving its own space in the Ottawa winter landscape.

Dave Adams says the Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Winter Trail is quickly carving its own space in the Ottawa winter landscape. File photo by Ellen Bond
Dave Adams says the Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Winter Trail is quickly carving its own space in the Ottawa winter landscape. File photo by Ellen Bond

Just like in its debut season, the SJAM Winter Trail will stretch from Westboro Beach to the Canadian War Museum. Last year, visitors from Kitchissippi and around the city traversed the trail on skis, snowshoes, “fatbikes,” or simply on foot.

In November, organizers launched the fundraiser for this year’s trail, aimed at a $20,000 target to support the costs of grooming and maintenance. As of writing, they’ve already surpassed a third of their goal.

Dave says that this trail will have a number of small tweaks and improvements over last year’s. Most notably, the fieldhouse at Champlain Park will now be integrated into the route. During times that the Champlain Park outdoor ice rink is open, visitors to the trail will be able to use the fieldhouse as a warm indoor space to rest up or change into their gear.

Extending the trail to Champlain Park represents not only a jump from NCC land to city-owned land, it also means closing off a portion of Pontiac street on the Park’s north end.

The whole trail is already a collaboration between the Dovercourt Recreation Association and the NCC. The Champlain Park initiative required even more bureaucratic cross-government cooperation. As such, Dave is quite vocal in praising both the NCC and Kitchissippi Ward Councillor, Jeff Leiper, who assisted with the project.

“You can just imagine what kind of work would be involved to actually convince the powers-that-be to shut down a road to make more green space. That’s just not a trivial thing,” Dave says. “It’s an example of how different bureaucracies can successfully work together and get stuff done.”

Dave and his team of groomers will also be adding more tracks on the trail for those using the “classic-style” skiing technique. He says that according to last year’s post-season survey, more skiers preferred that style, in which the skis are parallel to one another, to “ski-skating,” in which the skis are at an angle.

Dave says he was also surprised by how many survey respondents came from outside of the neighbourhood. “I thought it was primarily local use, but we were noticing people coming from the South of Ottawa, beyond Kanata… a few people in Gatineau,” Dave says.

While he is “delighted” at the wide popularity, this meant that parking was an issue for accommodating all the visitors. As such, organizers are examining the possibility of cutting through to Tunney’s Pasture with the aim of adding more parking on weekends.

There’s no set opening date yet — the team has to wait for deep enough snow to begin grooming. They are also undaunted by predictions of a milder winter. “[The trail] is very robust and versatile to crazy conditions,” Dave says, explaining that he can work with above-zero temperatures as long as there’s enough snow.

The trail is also sponsored this year by Fresh Air Experience, a winter sporting store that will be “right on the trail” renting out skis and fatbikes, which are like regular bikes, but with wider tires to displace weight.

Those seeking to donate to the trail fundraiser, or learn more about the trail, can visit wintertrail.ca.

Kitchissippi Reads: It’s a non-fiction pick for this “news junkie” 

By Andrea Tomkins – 

Those of us who enjoyed the SJAM Winter Trail along the Ottawa River this past winter probably already know that Kitchissippi’s Dave Adams, also known as Groomer Dave, was instrumental in its planning and upkeep. The snow melted long ago, but it doesn’t mean that Dave is resting on his laurels.

Kitchissippi Times caught up with Dave Adams at Gifford Automotive. Photo by Andrea Tomkins

The groomer (not Dave the groomer, but the Ski-Doo, a.k.a. the towing unit) is currently getting a tune up at Gifford Automotive on McRae Avenue, but the summer months are not just about equipment prep. There are also strategy sessions for a fundraising campaign to launch in the fall, which will hopefully build on the momentum that has been generated to date. Dave has big plans for the future of Kitchissippi’s newest recreational winter trail.

“I want to make [the trail] bigger and better every year,” says Dave. “I also want to make the trail sustainable. Right now we have a volunteer staff, and we’re cobbling together a grooming program and trying to prove ourselves. This year we’ve shown the potential of the trail. Now we just want to build upon that.”

Happily, this is not an “all work and no play” situation for Dave and there is still time to read.

Dave gravitates towards non-fiction and contemporary political histories. Biographies are a special favourite; so is news. “I’m a practical guy,” laughs Dave. “I’m kind of a news junkie.”

The New York Times is at the top of his news reading list. In fact, it was the election of President Donald Trump that drove him to make the leap to paying subscriber. His book recommendations come from similar high-level sources – the CBC and The Globe and Mail – and he enjoys reading both paper and electronic books.

Dave is currently reading a book he borrowed from the Ottawa Public Library called, Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel.

“It follows four servicemen coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, and their six-month tour of duty,” describes Dave. He points out that the ones who make it home have a mountain to overcome. “These were perfectly sane people, and then they returned permanently scarred,” he says.

“The introduction is written by my hero, Canadian Romeo Dallaire and the prologue is written by [CBC radio host and journalist] Carol Off,” he says. He is a keen admirer of both. Dave takes a moment to read a favourite paragraph from Carol Off’s introduction out loud:

“War –and its carefully disguised sister, peacekeeping – is an encounter with evil. Those who are exposed to it see the worst of what humans are capable of, and they learn what they themselves are capable of, all in the most extreme circumstances. It changes you forever. And it’s almost impossible for families to understand what afflicts these returning troops.”

It’s not light reading, that’s for certain, but as a self-described news and political junkie, it seems to fit the bill for Dave.

SJAM fans are encouraged to stay tuned to the official trail website at wintertrail.ca for fundraising info and other seasonal updates as they arise.

This post is part of our annual summer reads issue. Read all of our 2017 profiles right here.