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Where asking you to take a hike is a good thing

It’s still spring – despite the summery weather of late – and the Woolwich Trails Group is hosting one of the last hikes before taking a break for the season. Events are typically held in the spring and fall, avoiding the heat of summer, to take advantage of the township’s growing network of trails.

“It started over 20 years ago when interest in maintaining and developing trails started,” said Nancy Stayzer, a volunteer with the group. “There was a group of interested volunteers that got together and met once a month. So that’s how it started. In the spring and the fall we do hikes twice a month. We take the summer off because it’s just too hot.”

The trail group was established in 1992. Woolwich Township boasts 10 public trails that total more than 80 kilometres.

“When we plan hikes, we’ll send out the details to this hiking group,” said Stayzer. And so we probably have over 40 names on the list of people who might want to join us on a hike.”

“Our next hike is going to be lead by Jamie and Jen Hember,” added Stayzer. “They’ve been leading hikes forever. We get them to do a couple of hikes for us within the township. They’re friends of Woolwich Township, and they do a great job.”

The participants are generally a mixed bag.

“When we advertise a hike, we never know how many people will show up,” said Jamie Hember, a trail leader. “Sometimes there will be seven people or five people; sometimes we’ll get 21 people. It varies, in other words.

“We seldom, very seldom get children. Believe it or not, I hiked the whole Bruce Trail a couple of times now,” added Hember. “The one time there was this girl, about 12 years old with her parents. And she did the whole thing. That’s extremely rare.”

Closer to home, he’s looking to boost the profile of the trails group.

“I’d like the public to know just that we exist,” he said. “A lot of the people who do come out are older and quite often retired people. If they go out, they go out as a family. It’s like a cycling group or any other kind of group. With advertising, we have our newsletters, but to get the paper copy of the newsletter you have to be a member.”

The next hike is scheduled for June 7 at the Grand Valley Trail starting at 9 a.m. and ending at around 11:30 a.m. It will be about 10 kilometres in length.

The walks vary greatly in range, from five to 20 kilometres. Any members who come by who wish to stop at any point can do so, said Hember. He has given directions to members who find the length of the walk too daunting.

While there are specific hikes that allow for dogs, the general rule of thumb is that they are not permitted for safety reasons. However, there are rare exceptions.

“If you’re on a group hike and you’ve got 25 people on a rather treacherous part of the Bruce Trail, if they’re off leash, they can end up tripping you. The other issue locally is a lot of the time we’re hiking on private land where the landowner has permitted us. And it could be a farm where there are cattle – the farmer doesn’t want dogs, because sometimes the dogs don’t get along really well with the cattle. As a rule, we don’t permit dogs.

“Now, having said that I will do a hike and advertise it and I will say in it, ‘dogs welcome.’”

There are also different types of activities, such as interpretive nature hikes.

“One of the series that we planned in the Region of Waterloo, we have a number of forests, the regional forests that are open to recreation and open to hiking,” said Stayzer. “We really wanted to get somebody to come along on these hikes who knew the flora and fauna and to give us more information about the regional forest than any of us who are volunteers can do.

“Albert Hovine who works for the Region of Waterloo, his specialty is forest management. And he’s worked for the region for years. He’s the leader for these interpretive hikes. Once in the spring and once in the fall we choose a different regional forest. It’s nice to see what’s going on in the forest.”

For more information or to purchase the Guidebook to Woolwich Trails, visit www.healthywoolwich.org

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