If you’re a user of Woolwich’s now-expansive trail system, you have Art Woods to thank for that. The Township of Woolwich Environmental Enhancement Committee (TWEEC) recently did just that on your behalf, presenting him with an award recognizing his decades of service.
The group’s CARES award (Community Awards in Recognition of Environmental Stewardship) acknowledges the Elmira resident’s pioneering efforts to launch trails in the community.
Taken for granted today, trailways weren’t even on the radar in 1980 when Woods and the Elmira Lions Club pushed ahead to create the Elmira Lions Trail.
“That, for sure, in the 1980s was not a big thing,” he said of trail work. “Not everybody in my club was in favour of it, but majority of them still came out to work parties, so I can’t complain. It just took some time to convince everybody that it was something important in our community.”
From having to convince his fellow Lions that the trail thing had legs, Woods has seen both the trail network and the community support blossom. The pandemic shutdowns saw large numbers of people using local trails.
“This summer it was like the 401. I was there most days … and you could see the number of vehicles parked there,” he said of the trail entrance on Arthur Street North.
The pandemic-time boom in trail use has meant a bit more work, and raised some concerns about an increase in bicycle traffic, which has caused some conflict with pedestrians.
“It’s great to see bicycles out there, I just hope people are being considerate.”
It’s been a gratifying 40-year journey of growth, one he attributes to the efforts of others, including his fellow club members.
The idea stemmed from a desire to make a more formal trail around the Woolwich reservoir, aka the Floradale dam.
“I come from a family that was interested in tree planting and outside activities, and that probably played a role in it, to be honest. And, secondly, a few of us had some interest in the Woolwich reservoir,” said Woods of the first trail project. “It appeals to me personally because it provides an opportunity for people to do something without cost, and it’s beneficial to all.”
That early vision and the subsequent years of growing and maintaining the trail network is what made Woods a unanimous choice for a CARES award, says TWEEC chair Susan Bryant. The award was presented October 25 in an outdoor ceremony taped for release during last week’s Woolwich council meeting.
“Everybody was on board with it because we’re all using those trails a lot today,” she said. “I think that in the townships people just assume you’re kind of in the country and you don’t really need trails. But it has done really well and I think it’s probably the best trail system of all the townships in the region. That’s largely Art’s instigation, though he kept saying to me, ‘it’s not just me, I have all these younger people in the Lions.’ He was very, very clear that he wanted the club and the people recognized.”
“Obviously I’m very honoured to have been the recipient, but that could have gone to the club, not just Art Woods, but I’m honoured to receive it,” said Woods, noting the widespread use of the trails has been a reward in and of itself.
With an expanded network has come more work, particularly maintaining the trails, which relies on a team of volunteers, he stressed. It’s only through the hard work of volunteers, the generosity of those allowing use of their land and community response to fundraising efforts that the trail system has thrived all these years.