February Vortex of Failure

March 3rd, 2011Posted by admin

Hi Everyone!

Sorry about the lack of updates over the last month. I was battling a full workload and the workload got the best of me. That said, I’ve got four new episodes in the can and intend to get back on a weekly posting schedule this March. Thanks for your patience. Stay warm.


Episode 22: Nikola Tesla’s Monument

February 10th, 2011Posted by admin

Of all the history surrounding Niagara, it’s surprising how often we neglect the War of the Currents. The deciding battle in the war of words, science and propaganda between inventors Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse played out within view of the Falls. Edison ferociously promoted direct current (DC) for electric power distribution while Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla championed alternating current. In Niagara, AC triumphed.

The electrification of North America began across the river in Niagara Falls, New York where Westinghouse and Tesla won the contract to build a power plant to harness the hydroelectric power of the falls. This facility, some of which still stands today, began generating in 1895. Edison and General Electric, who lost the bid to build the plant, were resigned to merely building the lines to transmit Tesla’s AC power down to Buffalo.

The monument to Tesla, which features the inventor perched atop an AC motor, dapper top hat and cane in hand, sits in Queen Victoria Park between Table Rock House and the building housing the Falls spotlights. It was erected on July 9th, of 2006 with the backing of hte local Serbian Community and governments in both Ontario and Serbia. The design is the work of Hamilton, Ontario sculptor Les Drysdale.

Episode 21: Thompson Point

January 28th, 2011Posted by admin

In the early 1800s John Thompson, son of Scottish immigrants to Niagara, established a quarry on a picturesque ridge overlooking the massive whirlpool in the Niagara River. Thompson quarried the exposed rock at the lip of the gorge and processed it into agricultural lime. His complex featured two kilns and a water powered sawmill. The mill extended back to where the Whirlpool Restaurant sits today.

Thompson Point, the former site of the mine, gained further significance as part of the Spanish Aero Car project. The cable car, built in Bilboa, Spain, was launched in August of 1916. It departs from Colt’s Point, directly across the whirlpool from Thompson, and carries a maximum of forty visitors 76 meters over the waters below. The cables between the two points span 539 meters.

The car and cables were replaced in 1984 by the Niagara Parks Commission. A year later they commissioned a rescue car which is housed at Thompson Point. The smaller vehicle, with a carrying capacity of six, is tested yearly by the Parks Police but has not yet been required in an emergency.

In September of 2010, the Whirlpool Aero Car (as the Parks has since renamed it) was recognized as an International Historic Civil Engineering Work.

Don’t Forget! Check In Niagara is raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters this month! Check out our video and donate!

Episode 20: Haulage Road Trail

January 20th, 2011Posted by admin

The Haulage Road Recrational Trail is a short trail in the city’s north end. The kilometer and a half trail stretches from St. Paul Avenue up to Mountain Road, near the corner of Mountain and Dorchester. At Mountain the trail exits at the upper entrance of Fireman’s Park, one of the city’s largest greenspaces outside of the Niagara Parkway area and an spot on the Bruce Trail. At St. Paul the Haulage Road trail ends next to the infamous Queens House Tavern (or the Queen’s Coach Restaurant, if you’re more in the mood for breakfast than OV).

This trail is what remains of a series of truck haulage roads that were used by Ontario Hydro during the 1950’s. During the construction of the Sir Adam Beck II hydroelectric generating station these roads were used to remove rocks and dirt excavated from a site on the Niagara River to pits in the north end of the city. Adam Beck II began generating in 1954 and the majority of the haulage roads were incorporated back into the growing city. The Haulage Road Trail is one of the last remaining original stretches.

The Trail passes through the Solar Neighborhood Park where a cairn stands to memorialize the workers who constructed Niagara’s hydroelectric plants. It was dedicated in 2005.

Don’t Forget! Check In Niagara is raising money for Big Brothers Big Sisters this month! Check out our video and donate!

Bowl For Kids Sake Fundraiser

January 14th, 2011Posted by admin

Check In Niagara is happy to support Niagara Falls Big Brothers Big Sisters by participating in this year’s Tim Hortons Bowl For Kids Sake. We’ll be fielding a team of four in the event, taking place at on Saturday February 26th at Niagara Falls’ Cataract Bowl. We’re asking you to help us raise money for this great cause.

Here are the links you need to know about:

Thanks so much for helping us support a great cause. We’ll see you back out on the trails exploring Niagara next week!

Episode 19: Silurian Adventure Trail

January 6th, 2011Posted by admin

The Paul Naray Silurian Adventure Trail is a side trail of the Bruce that starts and ends within the forests of Woodend Conservation Area. The trail, marked by blue blazes, is roughty 1.61 kilometers long and should take no longer than half an hour to hike. Given the views of the Peninsula from atop the Niagara Escarpment though, you might find yourself staying longer than that.

The trail is named for the Silurian Period of geological time when the Niagara Escarpment was formed, some 445 million years ago. This was an era in which massive ice sheets carved through the bedrock of the Great Lakes. The present day trail is a terrific place to see some of the exposed rock of the Escarpment, as many large boulders lie at the cliff’s edge.

The Silurian Trail shares a path with the Bruce itself, and you’ll find blazes from both paths adoring the forest trees. The woodlot is comprised mostly of deciduous trees, mainly broad leafed hardwood such as sugar maple, beech, red oak, shagbark, hickory, and rock elm. The conservation area is also home to some of Canada’s remaining Carolinian forest species, including black cherry, black oak, and paw paw.

Episode 18: Woodend Conservation Area

December 30th, 2010Posted by admin

Woodend Conservation Area is one of the wonderful convergence points in Niagara. It sits on the ridge of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Niagara-on-the-Lake. It’s just past the limits of the city of Niagara Falls, with St. Catharines on the horizon. It’s one of the last vestiges of rare Carolinian forest in Canada yet one of the country’s major highways cuts past its lower slope. Each and every traveller on this bustling artery has seen Woodend, even if they didn’t realize it.

The conservation area itself covers some 45 hectares of hilltop, all maintained by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority. Families of United Empire Loyalists settled the area in the 1790s, with the Van Every family being the prominent landowners in Woodend. During the War of 1812 a three gun battery was said to occupy the heights and take full advantage of its superior view of the surrounding land.

There are four prominent trails in the area, the most famous of course being the Bruce. If you’re travelling the 800 kilometers from Queenston to Tomerbory you’ll pass into Woodend shortly after crossing the QEW. The trail enters and exits the Conservation Area at two nearly adjacent points, taking a crescent shaped detour along the ridge between them.

There are two self-guided trails which start and end in the park, the Hardwood Trail and the Silurian Adventure Trail. Each are no longer than a kilometer and a half and provide excellent short excursions for day hiking or bird watching. The Wetland Ridge side trail runs along the base of the Escarpment and explores some of the marshes that sit adjacent to the vineyards of the Niagara College Teaching Winery.

The center of Woodend features a cut meadow and several buildings. The house on the site, built in the 1800s and retrofitted in the 1930s, is now owned by the District School Board of Niagara and used for outdoor education programs.

The forests of Woodend mainly contain broad leafed hardwood species, including sugar maple, beech, red oak, shagbark, hickory, and rock elm. The site is also home some of Canada’s remaining Carolinian forest species, including black cherry, black oak, and paw paw.

Niagara Parks Commission stakeholder survey

December 23rd, 2010Posted by admin

The Niagara Parks Commission has entered into a strategic planning process and as such has made a new stakeholder survey available. The Parks, which has had a tumultuous year to say the least, is looking for community insights on what they’re doing right and what needs improvement.

Not to taint your own answers, but a few issues that factored into my own response were:

  • Should the NPC be running restaurants and theme park style attractions? Do these compete with the private sector?
  • Do high profile and high cost attractions like the Niagara’s Fury fulfill the mandate of the NPC?
  • Is the Parks doing enough to cater to eco-tourism with regards to the Niagara Glen, the Bruce Trail and the Greater Niagara Circle Route?
  • Is transportation between Niagara-on-the-Lake wine country and Fallsview adequate?
  • Is that big ugly wooden wall they built around half the parklands at the top of the Glen to house that woodworking park really the best use of that space?

I fully concede that last one in the list there is a little too opinionated.

For the record the mission of the Niagara Parks Commission is to “preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the Falls and the Niagara River corridor for the enjoyment of visitors, while maintaining financial self-sufficiency.”

You can find the survey here.

We’ll be back December 30th

December 23rd, 2010Posted by admin

Seasons greetings! If you haven’t noticed already, Check In Niagara is taking a bit of a holiday breather. My apologies for not announcing it sooner. I’ll be back with new episodes on the 30th of December then we’ll be going strong through January. Cheers!

Episode 17: Upper Canada Heritage Trail

December 9th, 2010Posted by admin

The Upper Canada Heritage Trail is fairly well known locally, if for no other reason the easily visible sign at the corner of York Road and Concession 2. Yet this trail is in fact a side trail from the mighty Bruce, and its southern terminus sits at a nondescript junction in the forest of the Niagara Escarpment. If you’re hiking from Queenston through to Tobermory (or, let’s say more realistically, Fireman’s Park in the north end of Niagara Falls), you’ll find the Upper Canada’s starting point on the Escarpment after you descent the steep hill from the Queenston Quarry area, just as you’re turning towards St. Davids.

The Upper Canada follows York Road from this point, climbing down near a built up rock retaining wall and crossing to the familiar sign point. Here other signage pays tribute to the Upper Canada Equestrian Association, who maintain the trail. Fittingly there’s a tie-off for horses here as well.

As you follow the trail it heads north, following a ridge between Concession 2 and Concession 1, then stretching parallel to the latter. This is an old railroad bed. It was operated from the late 1800s through the early 1900s by the Michigan Central Railway, New York Central Railroad, and later the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. The land was transfered to the Niagara Region in 1973, with the present day trail established in 1984.

Frogpond FarmThis 14 kilometer span will bring you past orchards, vineyards and other farms. Along the route it passes Frogpond Farm, Niagara’s first organic winery (their `02 Cab Merlot was a favourite of ours, or was that the `05?). You’ll also pass Marynissen Estates, a family run vineyard where grapes have been grown since the 1950s.

As you enter Niagara-on-the-Lake the trail crosses East West Line and Charlotte Street, ending at John Street. From this point you can pick up any number of trails, from the Waterfront Trail to the Greater Niagara Circle Route. If you’re trying to get back to the Bruce a southward turn down the Parkway will bring you to the General Brock side trail and eventually the Southern Terminus of the Bruce back on the Heights.