During the early days of the coronavirus crisis, with many of us stuck at home and few businesses open, hitting the trails was one of the few options available to those us looking to get out of the house. And many of us exercised that option.
The Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail has certainly seen an increase in users, though avoiding the kind of overcrowding that has forced the closure of some trailways.
“The G2G is fairly unique because it’s multi-jurisdictional – we have 17 municipalities that crisscross between Guelph and Goderich. And because there are different municipalities having different levels of usage and what they were allowing, the trail for the most part remained open, provided people were physically distancing themselves,” G2G executive director Doug Cerson said this week.
“We are happy to report we’ve had fairly low incident accounts—no one has complained about physical distancing – but we’ve had a tremendous number of new users,” he added.
Of the uptick in usage, Cerson suggests some people may have found the time to return to cycling, or families are looking for new areas to explore within and around their communities, adding not all of the increase is due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We’ve seen a lot of traffic this year, which may not be 100 per cent due to COVID. It certainly is an attractive space for people, in a very safe open space outside of the city. So, it’s very attractive for people to leave their urban areas and come out and visit sections of the G2G.”
Regular users and maintenance groups had been gearing up for the big summer projects of trail surfacing. A new surface facelift is ranging from Guelph to the edge of Elmira and between Linwood to Auburn. A sister path, the Kissing Bridge Trailway, was also the subject to a new facelift using a local invention, the Trail-Pro 3.0.
“We literally lift up, stone [that] was laid 20 years ago, shake it up to the top, put it back on, and cut that trail back to eight feet wide instead of say four feet,” said Cerson, noting G2G and Kissing Bridge Trailway have mutually benefitted from their 25-year relationship.
Similar to many other organizations, G2G did not qualify for any financial assistance during the pandemic. Currently, the organization is seeking donations to fund project RED, a joint undertaking with Wilfrid Laurier University’s geography program that provides students with work in their field.
The organization is also seeking donations for resurfacing and new wayfinding signage from end to end, with costs estimated at $253,000.
“We’ve had some great donations and great subsidies from companies. But we’re still about $100,000 [short] for stone dust that we have to buy and transport from various pits to the trail physically,” he said.
Cerson encourages residents to take advantage of the trailway this summer, especially the connectivity to other locations afforded by its location along a former rail corridor.
“I say get out on the trail unit safely, respectfully, and explore. We really pride ourselves on creating an integration between communities and connectivity. And we think it’s really important that people understand that this was a major transportation route [that] was used to connect up communities. And today it’s still connecting people in a different way, whether it’s by foot or by bicycle.”