June 22, 2011

Trail upgrades will link homes to water tower hill

As published in The Erin Advocate

Work is expected to start soon on improvements to a trail that links the Delarmbro subdivision with the Erin village water tower hill.

The initiative is being taken by the Erin Trails group, as part of the Town's Recreation and Culture Committee (RACC). It is backed by the Rotary Club of Erin, which has pledged up to $5,000, plus manual labour to help get the job done.

To be known as the Rotary Trail, the route is on municipal land. Walkers and cyclists use it to travel from the subdivision, along an existing berm parallel to County Road 124.

From behind the apartment buildings, the trail then cuts through a cedar grove and over an intermittent stream (which intersects the road next to Kirk's Barbershop). It then climbs a steep embankment to join the service road that takes vehicles from Main Street up to the water tower.

"We decided on the walking trail as being a project which would benefit the whole community," said Rotary President Ron McJury. "The eventual goal is to have a network of interlinked trails throughout the community, linking with some of the existing trails to provide locals and tourists alike an opportunity for exercise, communing with nature, and getting some spectacular views of the area."

Rotarians Melodie Rose and Rod Finnie proposed various projects to the club and members decided to give priority to trails. McJury hopes that new sections can be added every year.

The current project includes construction of a 20-foot bridge across the stream bed, in the style used by the Bruce Trail Association, plus tiered steps on the embankment. There will also be a series of signs and shamrock-style trail blazes. Arrangements are being made for the necessary approvals from Town Council and Credit Valley Conservation.

The Elora Cataract Trail, part of the Trans-Canada Trail, is an important route through Erin and Hillsburgh, but it needs off-shoots to create better hiking experiences. The Woollen Mills Trail (in the conservation area behind Mundell Lumber) was upgraded in 2009, but it needs a bridge across the Credit River to link it with MacMillan Park.

There are numerous informal trails around Erin village, including the routes from the water tower that connect to Charles Street and Church Street, but most are on private property. Erin Trails hopes to get permission to make some of those trails official, with proper signage and liability insurance, making them more accessible to the public.

For more information or to get involved in the trail improvements, call Bill Dinwoody at 519-833-2305 or Steve Revell at 519-833-2571.

As a member of the trails group, I have long had an interest in expanding this valuable network, which is now used by very few people. It is a relatively low-cost venture which can be done in stages. Better trails would enhance conditions for residents and make the villages of Erin and Hillsburgh more attractive destinations.

If we could create a loop route for hikers that includes both natural areas and the commercial section of Main Street, it would be an ongoing benefit for downtown businesses. It should be part of the Town's marketing plan.

If we could design a trail for horses and their riders, branching off from the Elora Cataract Trailway, it would attract a whole new group of visitors.

If we could make more connections between subdivisions, schools and stores, bypassing the busiest roads, we could make the urban landscape safer, especially for kids and seniors.

For a town that prides itself on environmental awareness and quality of life, a good network of trails should not be considered an optional luxury, but an important necessity. It should be a functional part of "The Charm".