A message to all orienteers,
After last Sunday's meet at Britannia Park / Mud Lake, we received a couple strongly worded emails from bird watchers at Mud Lake regarding the behaviour of a small number of competitors. Their reports stated that runners shouted at them to get out of the way, and one person even claimed that obscenities were hurled at him.
Now, the board knows that the overwhelming majority of our members would not behave in this way. But sometimes, in the heat of competition, any one of us can become so focused on the route to the next control, that we become oblivious to everything else, including the people we encounter on the trails.
So this is just a gentle reminder, if you are approaching pedestrians, and the trail is too narrow to pass safely, please slow your pace down to a walk until you get past them. Orienteers have no more right to be on the trails than anyone else, and possession of an orienteering map does not give us any special permissions. Slowing down is not just a question of common courtesy to others who are out enjoying nature - which is reason enough to slow down - but also a question of safety.
Better yet, be an ambassador for the club, and offer a friendly "hello" as you walk past. If the pedestrians are curious about what you are up to, consider stopping for 30 seconds to give them a quick intro to orienteering - you may not beat your arch-nemesis's time that day or set a new personal best, but you could win over a new convert to the sport, and how cool would that be? :-)
If the trail is wide and/or has a grassy shoulder that you can safely pass on without startling the walkers, or putting toddlers, the elderly, or anyone else at risk, then by all means run past. But if there is any doubt at all, please err on the side of caution, and slow it down a bit until you pass.
The club works very hard to build relationships with private, corporate, and government landowners in order to get access to the land we orienteer on. Incidents like the ones that were reported to us this weekend can shatter years of goodwill that we've established in the community.
On a related note, while I am nagging, I want to remind everyone that dogs are not allowed at any orienteering events. It's not that we hate dogs - many of our board members are dog owners themselves - it's just that dogs are not permitted even on leash at many locations, and they are disturbing and/or distracting to some participants and some of the people you may encounter on the trails.
On behalf of the Orienteering Ottawa Board Of Directors