Over the last five years, volunteers with the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail have raised funds and lobbied governments to create a 127-kilometre continuous hiking, biking and walking pathway from downtown Guelph to the shores of Lake Huron.Now, with some $28,000 in cash donations and another $28,000 in kind – in the form of prizes or work done on the trail – the group has been busy building bridges and making headway with numerous municipalities.
“Where we have gotten to over the last five years is an acceptance from end to end that this trailway is an important backbone and an important route in southern Ontario,” said Doug Cerson, executive director of the G2G Rail Trail. “We have gathered the support of not only the province which was willing to lease us the entire sections which were not leased, which we have now achieved, but we have also had the other counties step up and say that they are interested. They don’t move as quickly as a private organization like us, but they are definitely highly supportive.”
Waterloo Region, for example, recently pledged $40,000 for an engineering feasibility study that could see the abandoned rail bridge – only the massive concrete abutments remain – across the Grand River just north of West Montrose reconstructed. The region is also looking at a similar project for another abandoned rail bridge across the Conestogo River near Wallenstein.
Last year, the group finished building a $70,000 bridge near Millbank, and installed a bike-friendly staircase just outside of West Montrose at Katherine Street.
On Saturday, the organizers with the G2G Rail Trail will host the fifth annual Spring on the Trail in support of the project.
“What we have done is try to create some awareness and Spring on the Trail was just a way to get people off the couch and onto the trail, early in the season, especially kids, because it becomes addictive. You get out and you get doing stuff early in the season and it promotes activeness and it promotes a connection with the rural areas, so you can walk along and see the crops that have been planted and growing and all that good stuff.”
The Spring on the Trail docket includes an official opening of the bridge in Millbank as well as a ride from Millbank to Guelph and back from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 9.
Meanwhile, the Woolwich Healthy Communities Healthy Hikes Kickoff begins at 10:30 a.m. from the kiosk at 6055 Middlebrook Rd.
“Gloria Yeung and I will be leading the trail and we’ve actually done some research about the history of West Montrose and the Kissing Bridge and the Canadian Pacific Rail Line and how the trail came to be,” Woolwich Healthy Communities volunteer Nancy Stayzer said. “We’ll also be talking about the Grand River and the flood plains and just things that people might not know, and so as we walk, there will be a few stops along the way to talk about some things that people might be interested in knowing about the hike.”
The goal of course is to get people out and about and thinking about making healthier lifestyle choices.
“It’s for absolutely everyone,” Stayzer said. “We’re encouraging people to get out not only on our trails but just into nature and that means community hiking or people could walk at the Woolwich Memorial Centre along the track; we just want people to get out and walk, because (experts) say, if you spend an hour a day walking, there are very few things you can do, besides not smoking, that are better for your body.”
Woolwich Healthy Hike kits will be available, and will include maps, hike logs and a schedule of group hikes for the 2015 season.
The group is also offering 100- and 200-kilometre badges for avid hikers looking to track their progress in the coming months and years.
To find out more about the G2G Rail Trail and the Woolwich Healthy Hikes program, check out http://g2grailtrail.com/ and www.healthywoolwich.org.