As published in The Erin Advocate
For an enjoyable outing, and an idea of what a team of dedicated enthusiasts can accomplish, take a drive to Island Lake Conservation Area just east of Orangeville, where the final section of an 8.2 km loop trail has just been opened to the public.
We might not be ready to dream of anything on this scale in Erin, yet, but it could provide some inspiration.
The completed Vicki Barron Lakeside Trail has been a ten-year project of the Friends of Island Lake group, working with Credit Valley Conservation Foundation (CVCF). They have raised more than $2 million in donations of cash, in-kind labour and materials, and organized the contribution of more than 12,000 volunteer hours for the project.
“Completion of the west link now connects the park to the surrounding community,” said Bill Lidster, Operations Manager for the north zone at CVC. “It gives local citizens and all visitors an outdoor hiking experience that is second to none.”
The regular trail is hard-packed gravel and soil, about eight feet wide, suitable for bicycles and even wheelchairs, but the most interesting (and expensive) feature is a series of five boardwalk style bridges with observation decks.
Boardwalks are not only attractive, but allow people get close to natural features without trampling them. Erin could benefit from some boardwalks to show off its views of the West Credit River and beautiful wetland areas.
No one is going to donate money or time, however, based on talk. For Orangeville, an appealing plan and an achievable goal resulted in huge support from residents, local businesses, service clubs, charitable foundations, big corporations and various levels of government. Once a good idea gains exposure and momentum, cooperation increases and serious fundraising becomes possible.
Change is in the air for Erin, so residents need to figure out what they really want and start going for it.
The process for Orangeville was perhaps more clear-cut, since they had a beautiful lake surrounded by publicly owned land. The 400 acre reservoir lake was created with the construction of two dams in 1967 to regulate the flow of water in the Credit River. The Conservation Area also includes wetlands, forest, meadows and a wildlife sanctuary, protecting the headwaters of the Credit and Nottawasaga Rivers.
The general admission fee, which includes parking and a variety of uses, is $5 for adults and $3 for kids. The public can enter the area at no charge from various points such as the corner of Hwy 10 and Fourth Ave., or from Hockley Road to the north, for trail use only.
The area is popular for bird watching (including osprey, heron and mallards), fishing (with heated ice hut rentals in the winter), and canoeing, kayaking and non-motorized boating. There’s windsurfing, picnicking, a kids’ wading beach, ice skating, snowshoeing and of course hiking, not only on the long loop trail, but shorter trails. For more information on area activities, including special events like Yoga in the Park, go to www.creditvalleyca.ca. (The website has not been updated with the newest trail information.)
An official celebration of the Close the Gap Trail Campaign and completion of the lakeside trail is planned for August 28, at 11:30 am, at the newest trail section near Hwy. 10.