So, you think you want to build a walking/hiking trail? I’m not talking a fifty foot trail around your back yard! I have actually done this on my former one acre property. I decided to cut a trail into the side of a steep ravine across the property so as to actually be able to traverse this otherwise unusable part of my backyard. Turned out pretty well I must say!
All I had to do was some back-breaking work with the old shovel and notch into the hill and level the dirt out to about a two foot width…sound good so far? To keep the hill and the old barn at the top of it from careening down the steep hill onto the Street below (thus having the Town Father’s having some words with me…none of them printable here). I thought it best to build a good solid one hundred foot- long retainer wall to prevent a possible long court battle and a humongous fine from afore-mentioned Fathers.
Being a cheap (I prefer to be called thrifty) son of a gun, I was not about to open the wallet and set those moths free! What’s a guy to do? Simple… look up some old friends who are replacing their cement sidewalks. Crank up the old GMC and offer to cart the cement chunks away for them (never accused of being overly bright) it never crossed my mind to actually charge them for this service!! I seem to recall Bushwhacker, I disposed some for you!! A free lunch some day would seem like a good idea! Recycling cement chunks and creating a ‘stone wall’ look worked out perfectly well. Truck loads of old bricks from a brother-in-law (free) finished off the walking surface nicely! A word of warning here!! House bricks should never line a walking path. They have a tendency to absorb water and freeze (and explode into a coarse sand-like substance). Stroke of luck here…looked really great!!
Getting back to the original subject here, I once went to a public meeting advertised in the local scandal sheet (newspaper for you politically correct people) for persons interested in being involved in helping to build a thirty-two mile (or is that kilometer?) hiking trail across the Oak Ridges Moraine. Being a veteran member of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail, a Cross Country Hiking Trail, this immediately aroused my interest.
After attending this public meeting, the names and phone numbers of those of us still remotely interested was held a week later on Ranger’s patio with about a dozen people showing interest. Until this day, I still don’t know how I ended up as the Chairperson of this new Chapter of the Oak Ridges Trail Association. With three associates…Gwen, Tony and Eric, the three amigos were to embark upon a long series of meetings over the next year. The first order of business was to define a preferred route from The Ganaraska Forest Centre eastward to Gore’s Landing on Rice Lake and it must be on the Oak Ridges Moraine and have a few alternates as back up.
Our first priority was to keep the trail off public roadways. The ideal trail would have to utilize unopened township road allowances, forests, or crown lands which are public property and are almost always the most scenic. Hiking trails are to be designed for non-motorized vehicles, with walking, cycling, horse-back riding and cross country skiing encouraged. As road allowances are unfortunately shared at times by motorcycles, snowmobiles and four wheelers, our ultimate goal would be the use of private property (of course, with permission).
Our preferred route was through a block of private properties along the south shore of Rice Lake. To obtain the names of land owners we would need to approach the Township and they could give us the info required via a printout of voters/tax assessment lists. As luck would have it…one landowner’s denial of a trail would bring that route to a screeching halt!!
With unopened road allowances now our best bet, we would have to approach the Township of Hope (the name itself was a good omen). With a scheduled appointment to attend a Council Meeting, we were fully encouraged in our project and given swift approval providing we produce a map of all trails in their jurisdiction and provide evidence of insurance coverage.
Now came what we thought would be the end of months of planning meetings! After meeting with the Mayor, we were given the impression that this project would never happen! It seems Hamilton Township would require a Public Meeting Notice to be advertised in all local papers so everyone could voice their feelings on this proposed trail. Please note here: Ranger is rather shy…and would rather swim in shark infested waters than speak in public!!
Being known to everyone who knows me as ‘a man of few words’, (I have always believed you can learn more by listening than by talking) I was escorted to the front of the township meeting room (the largest room I have ever seen!) It was full of people who looked like they were out for blood (mine!). Why was there a pail of tar and a bag of feathers placed beside the speaker’s podium? Then the questions started: “Why on earth would you want to build a trail from Orangeville to Warkworth and Castleton?” To publicise the Oak Ridges Moraine and its importance in protecting most of southern Ontario’s drinking water and creating a 170 miles of hiking Trail! “We don’t want throngs of people forever walking through or even past our properties!” Hikers only walk on designated trails and you might only see us do this once or twice a year on group hikes (or individual hikers). “What about all that garbage (read: cig butts and beer bottles) that will be strewn along the way?”. I have never met a hiker yet who would do this, most of us actually pick up garbage as we hike and we promise to have a yearly trailside clean up. And besides, hikers are not allowed to smoke or drink while hiking!
“What about all those four-wheelers and snowmobiles roaring along the trail at all hours of the day and night?”. Sorry, we cannot control them (an OPP problem) and we cannot purposely block a public trail (possible lawsuits!) Note: if a tree falls over the trail, we could leave it there but never put one there ourselves! Once a trail has been established, ORTA cannot stop anyone from acquiring a guide book and using the trail! “How many thousands of dollars will this cost us taxpayers?”. All ORTA trail and maintenance expenses are covered by member’s yearly dues.
Well, now the hungry lion’s in the den are starting to look to Daniel to be well fed and even receptive and friendly!
This trail system (ORTA) is set up and maintained by twelve Chapters, as this one traverses Hope and Hamilton Townships, we chose The Hope-Hamilton Chapter as our name. Memberships and Guide Books with highlights of what to see, where parking is allowed along the trail and where gas stations, restaurants and local hospitals are located (not sure why this is here, we have never lost a hiker yet!) can be purchased. Visit oakridgestrail.org for more information.
The next week in the local papers, an article appeared from Hamilton Township stating that our trail was approved by all Council members and that several of them were looking forward to using it. Seems they were impressed by the knowledgeable and non-combative (?) attitude from ORTA .
At the next General Meeting of ORTA, an unexpected Commendation Award was presented to Ranger in part saying “your quiet and effective efforts in building the Hope-Hamilton Section of ORTA have not gone unnoticed. The ORTA Board on behalf of our membership, has been very appreciative of your efforts…”. These few word made it all worthwhile!!
After almost two years of exploring all possible trail routes, many meetings with Gwen and Eric, many ups and downs, disappointments and victories…would I do it all again?
YES!!…but not as a Chairperson!!