Local links, a hopefully brief hiatus, and a new music project

December 15th, 2011Posted by admin

Hello! It’s abundantly clear that despite my best intentions my full plate isn’t going to allow me to produce new Check In Niagara episodes in the short term. Hopefully we can get up to speed again in 2012.

In the meantime here’s where you should visit for thoughtful and insightful local views of life in Niagara. Eating Niagara is a website devoted to local eating and agriculture in Ontario’s Niagara Region. It pairs well with Wines In Niagara, which focuses on the  wonderful wines and food made in the Niagara Peninsula. You should be following the trials and tribulations of a small Organic Niagara farmer on the Tree and Twig Farm Blog. They’re only slightly more timely than I am, but Get Out Niagara remains a great resource for exploring outdoor life in the region, as does Wolfmaan, where you can follow the barefoot adventures of a local outdoor educator and wilderness guide.

If you’re looking for more on the history of Niagara there are some fantastic resources coming together for the 1812 bicentennial, specifically the Discover1812 website. For information on local hiking and trails you can’t go wrong with the official Bruce Trail website.

So where am I? Of course I remain the managing editor over at Punknews.org, I’m one of the organizers of Social Media Club Niagara and I’m a web developer and social media consultant at JMR Logics.

Of local interest we just launched Some Party: The Punknews.org Ontario Podcast. It’s a monthly music show featuring nothing but Ontario bands, including many from the Niagara Region. You can subscribe to the show in iTunes.

Some Party will strive to reflect the province’s vibrant independent music community. It will feature a mix of local punk rock and the genre-defying offshoots of that scene, from singer-songwriter to alt-country to folk. In the first episode we feature music from Marine Dreams (ex-Attack In Black), The DemicsBathurstNorthern PrimitiveMark It ZeroThe DecayThe Steve Adamyk Band (ex-Million Dollar Marxists), Single MothersBruce PeninsulaCuff The DukePkew Pkew Pkew (Gunshots)ElkOne Hundred Dollars and Mongo.

Until next time.

Where did the summer go?

September 16th, 2011Posted by admin

Where did the summer go? An apology for disappearing. We’ll be back with new episodes soon.

Episode 27: Wintergreen Flats

June 11th, 2011Posted by admin

The Niagara Glen is one of my favourite places in the Niagara Region, and it’s entering into a new phase of its long existence with a renewed commitment to conservation from the Niagara Parks Commission. The conservation area has thankfully emerged from an awkward decade that saw half of it’s upmost terrace, the Wintergreen Flats, fenced off and used to house a woodcarving park. With the fence now down and a the visitor’s centre revamped to focus on education and land stewardship, things are looking up.

The Wintergreen Flats encompass the greenspace next to the Niagara Parkway that overlooks the river. It caps the land in Lockport Limestone, rock formed 400 million years ago when a salt water ocean covered the region. For a period from 7 or 8 thousand years ago the Falls of Niagara fell here, dropping 37 meters over the land that is now the Flats. The falls at this time was split by and island (much as it is today) and the evidence of both cascades can be seen here. The island that split them is now the rock formation we call the Stern of the Great Eastern, but that’s our next episode…

A huge thanks goes out to Jim Brown, maintainer of the very cool Niagara History and Trivia Facebook Group and former Parks naturalist, for educating me in the finer points of Glen history.

Win tickets to the S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival

June 8th, 2011Posted by admin

S.C.E.N.E. Music FestivalOne of the other hats I wear is that I’m the managing editor at Punknews.org. After a decade of toiling away supporting music festivals and concerts just about everywhere else in the world, I’m thrilled to finally put the Punknews spotlight on a local event. We’re a media sponsor this year at the S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival, coming up June 26th in St. Catharines. The event will feature over 160 bands playing 17 stages in 13 venues, including several Ontario-based acts I’m quite fond of like The Flatliners, The Decay and Cancer Bats. The lineup also features acts like Silverstein, Shai Hulud, This Is Hell, The Artist Life, USS, and Dinosaur Bones among others.

If you’d like a chance to win a pair of tickets to the event, we’re giving away some at Punknews. You can enter here.

Relaunching (in more ways than one)

June 4th, 2011Posted by admin

Today’s a day of new beginnings. As you can see I’ve simplified and relaunched Check In Niagara, removing many of the superfluous features and navigation options from the old design to leave me with something much cleaner and (hopefully) more focused on content. Video updates start up again next week with a spotlight on the Niagara Glen.

Niagara Glen Fire Pit RemovalSpeaking of the Glen, today was the seasonal clean up thrown by the Friends Of Niagara Glen group. We picked up garbage and removed firepits along the trails, only to be caught in a spectacular thunderstorm somewhere around Pebbly Beach, which made for a slippery climb back up to the Wintergreen Flats. The Flats themselves look wonderful with the removal of the totem part and its imposing fence.

Before the clean up we were treated to a ribbon cutting ceremony in which Niagara Parks Commission chair Fay Booker, MPP Kim Craitor and others launched the new Glen visitors centre, which is much more focused on the conservation efforts than in the past (which is to say, it’s more about education then hosting a gift shop with a spectacular view). The Parks is planning to provide guided hikes of the Glen twice a day though the summer as part of this new initiative as well, which is great news. A day of renewal for everyone.

Episode 26: Burch’s Mills

April 26th, 2011Posted by admin

In our final (and much belated) entry from the winter of 2011 we visit Burch’s Mills, or at the very least the land where John Burch’s water-powered grist and saw mill once stood. The facility, which went into operation in 1786, was among the first industrial usage of water from the west bank of the Niagara River. The mills were short lived and were burned by the retreating American army on July 26, 1814 following the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.

Episode 25: Ontario Power Screen House Walkway

March 28th, 2011Posted by admin

Haven’t seen the episode about the Gate House? Check it out first, it’s where the water from the forebays shown in this episode ends up.

Screen House from inner forebay side the Ontario Power Company of Niagara FallsThe walkway crossing the Ontario Power Generating Station forebays sits where the Screen House one stood. That structure was used to halt floating debris and ice from entering the three conduits that sit below the Gate House. When hydroelectric generation was running at full capacity, water would flow through the forebays at a rate of 340 cubic meters per second.

The rock excavated the riverside to create the inner and outer forebays has become part of a different Niagara legacy. The 115,000 cubic meters of material was used to build out the nearby (and still very popular) Dufferin Islands recreational area, increasing the size of some of the existing islands and creating several entirely new ones.

The current Screen House walkway is, like so many spots featured on Check In Niagara, part of the Greater Niagara Circle Route.

Episode 24: Ontario Power Gate House

March 27th, 2011Posted by admin

Today the Ontario Power Gate House sits silently next to the Niagara Parkway, fenced away from the tourists visiting the great cataract, a silent monument to Niagara’s hydroelectric history. It once regulated the flow of water to the first major Alternating Current power generator on the Canadian side of the river.

Black & white scan from book The development of the Ontario Power Company, written by P. N. Nunn ; published in 1905 by the Ontario Power Company of Niagara FallsThe gate house was commissioned in 1905. Its stately walls sit atop three 6 meter diameter conduits, two of steel and a third fashioned from wood, bound in iron hoops and encased in cement. These conduits carried water which had collected in forebays underground nearly two kilometers to the generating station at the brink of the falls. At this station, which sits atop a cliff opposite to Goat Island, the water fell through penstocks tunneled through the rock to turbines at the foot of the falls.

Inside the gate house large square gates sat atop rollers to regulate or cease the flow of water. Furthermore the building housed deicing equipment, including boilers and steam pipes, to prevent freezing in the winter months.

The Ontario Power Station was decommissioned in 1999.

Episode 23: Hydro Control Gates

March 19th, 2011Posted by admin

Built in the 1950s, two intake control gates sit between the Niagara Parkway and the Niagara River, just three kilometers south of the Horseshoe Falls. The massive subterranean hydro tunnels, each 13.7 meters in diameter, start here. Water from the river is drawn through these channels to the forebays of the Sir Adam Beck 2 Generating Station 10 kilometers downstream near Queenston.

The gates stand six stories tall and 48 meters wide. When required they can be lowered into the earth to regulate the flow through the tunnels below. If an extreme emergency were to take place they can cut off the water entirely. Such a scenario has not yet arose, but the gates are closed annually as part of their regular maintenance routine.

There are similar structures across the river in Niagara Fals, New York which regulate water flowing to the Robert Moses station. While functionally they are similar to their Canadian counterparts they’re structurally quite different looking.

Standing next to the gates one can hear the water rushing through the tunnels below, moving at a rate of 1,850 meters per second and descending as deep as 101 meters beneath the city.

Big Niagara’s vision, Little Niagara’s parochialism

March 3rd, 2011Posted by admin

Walter Sendzik from the St. Catharines Chamber of Commerce has a spot on editorial running in the local papers today. I touched on the parochialism of this region in the very first episode of CheckInNiagara.com so it’s thrilling to see it discussed so prominently.

Indeed, few can argue that in Niagara there is a Big Niagara and a Little Niagara mentality.

Big Niagara is about positioning the region within a new, rapidly changing global economic environment. It’s about reinforcing strengths, seeking opportunities and speaking with one voice. It’s about looking up and out.

Tackling the big issues — poverty, unemployment, a crumbling health-care system, a lagging economy and putting in place bold plans for a brighter future.

Little Niagara is about parochialism. It’s about a Niagara that is rooted in a 20th-century mentality — 12 municipalities pitted against each other fighting for their own self interests, and fighting against regional government. It’s about duplication of services, over-governance and a “me-first” attitude.

Read the full article at the Welland Tribune.