March 19, 2014

Trails provide exercise and escape to nature

As published in Country Routes

Trails in the Erin-Hillsburgh area are getting more attention in recent years, as people realize their value for exercise and enjoyment of the great outdoors.

They are also recognized for their role in attracting tourists and enhancing property values in the Town.

On a combination of private, conservation and Town-owned lands, sections of the network are used by hikers, cyclists, snowmobilers and horseback riders.

Working with the Town are members of the Erin Trails Committee, an extension of the Recreation and Culture Committee (RACC). Its current project is development of the small, grassy area at the end of Church Blvd. next to Hull’s Dam, to be called Riverside Park.

“It connects with the Trails Network and will have a historical sign, picnic tables, landscaping and river observation areas, to be completed in 2014,” said RACC Chair Bill Dinwoody. The park is dedicated to the memory of Steve Revell, an active trails advocate and volunteer who passed way last year.

“Steve left a legacy of ideas for the future, which are and will be worked on by the RACC Trails Committee,” said Dinwoody. The group also organizes community tree plantings, with the next one happening at the Deer Pit behind Centre 2000, on May 3, 9 am to noon. Volunteers are needed.

The Elora Cataract Trailway, on the 1879 rail road that was once Erin’s economic lifeline, is now owned and managed by Credit Valley Conservation (CVC) in this area. It is also a segment of the Trans-Canada Trail, a 21,500-kilometre recreational trail system (the world's longest).

Robert and May MacDonald of Erin have been enjoying the trailway on their bicycles for the past 20 years, and appreciate the bench that has been installed where the trail crosses the river east of Erin village.

“It’s just beautiful – there are lots of wildflowers,” said May. “We meet a lot of friendly people from Brampton and Toronto who come up to use the trail.”

Some trail users would prefer to have a loop route, but May doesn’t mind going back and forth on the straight trailway.

“We see different things on the way back,” she said. Are there any changes they’d like to see?

“A hot dog stand would be nice,” said Robert, but he’s quite happy with the maintenance, signs and parking. “The condition of the trail is good – we are lucky to have it.”

Cameron Cuthbert and his wife Andrea liked the trail so much they bought a home next to it.
“We utilize it for commuting to the tennis courts, schools, Tim Horton’s; walking the dogs, running, x-country skiing, leisure sports and socially,” said Cameron, who chairs the Trails Committee.

“I love the idea of connecting the town through trails. It creates a sense of community. I want to get people out of their cars and onto their feet. It can help the whole community being more physically fit, connecting with nature and each other. As we know this takes time, but we need a plan to execute for the future. To not do this is shortsighted.” 

The Hillsburgh Snow Roamers have also done a lot to enhance local trails, building a valuable network that is enjoyed by local residents, and which attracts many visitors.

“We are a proud club with over 40 years of improving the trail riding experience in the Hillsburgh / Erin area,” says President Gord Wiesner, on the club’s website,

“Our volunteers, members, executive and sponsors know that this is one of the best and most scenic trail riding areas in the region.”

The Elora Cataract Trailway, known as Trail B202 in the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) system, is the backbone of the local network. Other trails extend south through Brisbane, north into Hillsburgh and into East Garafraxa, with connections to another trail that runs parallel to Dufferin Road 3, linking the Fergus and Orangeville clubs.

Last December’s ice storm was a serious threat to the club, with fallen tree branches blocking trails. Credit Valley Conservation didn’t want people using the trailway, and said it would not be able to clean up the mess until spring.

Volunteers from the Snow Roamers jumped into action, in cooperation with CVC, so pass holders would still be able to enjoy the season, with higher than normal snowfall. They put in over 554 hours of work, and were able to open the trailway by January 19.

Another group that values trails and would like to see more of them is the horse-riding community. Horses are allowed on sections of the Elora Cataract Trailway, except in the spring when the trail is too soft and wet.

The interest was highlighted in the Equine Economic Development Report presented to Town Council last December, which advocates improvements to riding infrastructure.

“Bringing more riders to the area will intensify demand for equine services and while here, increase patronage of other services as well,” the report says. “Increased demand will lead to expansion of existing and new services, which foster expansion and new development, contributing to increased property tax revenue.”

The report points out that trails are relatively inexpensive compared to other infrastructure.
“Trails greatly increase the appeal to riders, and with opportunities shrinking within the GTA, Erin is positioned to be the closest location for GTA riders. 

“Already there are numerous informal trails intersecting the Town of Erin in all directions. We propose the idea of a trail hub to create Erin as the centre with trails radiating out to destination spots within a few hours ride such as event facilities (local arenas, Angelstone, Palgrave and Orangeville to name a few) and neighbouring communities (lnglewood, Cheltenham, Fergus, Elora) much like the spokes on a bicycle wheel.

“Complementing the trail system would a hitching post and trailer park centrally located so that riders can safely leave their horses and vehicles while they visit Erin. The fairgrounds would be an ideal location and offer a revenue stream for the Agricultural Society should they be willing to enter into a partnership.”

Phil Gravelle is a freelance writer and a member of the Erin Trails Committee.