December 02, 2015

New walking trail reveals heritage of downtown Erin

As published in the Erin Advocate

A self-guided tour of the Victorian architecture in Erin’s historic downtown district is now available, with brochures provided in many local shops.

The Heritage Walking Trail takes less than an hour to complete, starting at the Founding of Erin historical plaque on the east side of Main Street near the West Credit River.

It is a joint project of the Town’s Trails and Heritage Committees, with support from the Wellington County Planning Department.

The brochure has two maps, one of the downtown core from Centre Street to Water Street, and the other showing the network of village trails and greenspaces, from the Elora Cataract Trailway to the Water Tower Trail. It can be downloaded as a PDF file from the Trails section of the Town website.

There are photos and information on 17 points of interest, plus codes that people can scan with their smart phones to get more details on-line. Erin’s mill history is highlighted on a sign at McMillan Park. On the west side of Main Street, the tour diverts to Riverside Park, which has a sign with even more information on local history and natural features.

I have a personal interest in the current project, helping plan it over the last few years with Steve Revell and Bill Dinwoody of the Trails Committee, and doing much of the design, writing and photography. This year, the Heritage Committee got involved and pushed the project to completion, with the support of Chair Jamie Cheyne, Councillor Jeff Duncan, Economic Development Coordinator Bob Cheetham, County Planner Director Gary Cousins and the BIA.

It is all a continuation of work done previously. In 1985, signs were created for downtown shops with historical information on the buildings, and many are still in place. In 1994, the Village of Erin published a Walking Trails brochure, with the help of Tim Inkster of The Porcupine's Quill, identifying the downtown business district as The Heritage Trail.

Trails support the principles of the Wellington County Active Transportation Plan, which encourages people to get out of their cars and get moving under their own power. This is good for fitness, good for the environment, good for local business and good for educating people about heritage and nature. As former trails volunteer Frank Smedley liked to say, “It’s all good.”

For economic development, trails promote a positive image for the Town as a desirable destination. Having a public network, with brochures and signs, gives visitors some well-defined choices.

The network so far includes the Elora Cataract Trailway, the Woollen Mills Trail, the Rotary Trail, the Water Tower Trail and Riverside Park. It could be expanded with a Riverside Boardwalk, a link through the Stanley Park area and a Height of Land trail extending from the water tower.

When we have new housing subdivisions, we should incorporate trails as part of the essential infrastructure. Also, Wellington County’s purchase of land surrounding the Hillsburgh Mill Pond opens up possibilities for a new trail in that area.

A Trails Master Plan would identify the type of trails network the Town wants, and how we can go about building it. Fortunately, planning and promotion of trails has become a key part of Erin’s Economic Development Action Plan, and grant money is being sought to make more progress.