by Jack Morgan
The Bruce Trail – it’s a fairly big deal, isn’t it? It’s long; it extends right through the middle of the province all the way from Niagara to Tobermory. It runs along the Niagara Escarpment the whole way – a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. There’s no admission fee. It’s available to anybody, from anywhere, at anytime. And it doesn’t cost the government anything to operate because Bruce Trail Conservancy members provide the resources, a few staff and a lot of volunteers to do the work.
The Trail provides encouragement for anyone with a pair of shoes to get outdoors, to have an adventure, to stay healthy, to appreciate the beauty, the flora, the fauna, the landforms – tarmacs of trilliums and trout lilies in spring, the cool green baize of a mature forest in summer, a mixed hardwood and coniferous mosaic in fall and then a cold, blank snow-deep ridgeline in winter.
In our area – if you want to really walk – the Trail will take you through the rolling Caledon Hills, across the heights of Dufferin Highlands, along the top of our own Blue Mountains, up and down the edges of the beautiful Beaver Valley, across historic Sydenham and then on and up the spectacular Bruce Peninsula.
So the Bruce Trail is a good thing, right? Hard to argue against? The answer has to be “Yes,” if anything is.
And it’s a done deal, surely? I mean it’s been around for almost fifty years. So, it’ll always be there – for you and your kids and your grandkids, won’t it? Unfortunately the answer to those questions is “Not necessarily.” And that’s the issue.
Less than half of the 869 km-long main Bruce Trail has been secured: more than half of the Trail is at risk. It’s at risk because the development pressures are still there. It’s at risk from changes that future governments might make to environment protection legislation and regulation. It’s at risk because much of it crosses private land on simple handshake agreements with landowners. (A fair chunk of it is on roads to get around sections where permission to follow the optimum route for the Trail has not been forthcoming.) It’s at risk because the funds needed to secure the land, and so the Trail, are hard to come by.
So no-one who is a fan of the Bruce Trail should be complacent. And the Trail may be even more critical now that the Bruce Trail Conservancy is increasing its emphasis on the acquisition of land to create a permanent conservation corridor the full length of the Trail. In this attempt to provide protection and stewardship of an often very sensitive and diverse ecology – to protect the beautiful fragility of the land – the Conservancy has taken on an even larger mission.
The heartening thing is that there is evidence that people are subscribing to the mission. The Conservancy’s most recent reports are optimistic despite the threats. Conservancy members, other volunteers, supportive landowners, conservation partners, individual financial donors, some green corporations and foundations have taken up the Bruce Trail cause enthusiastically.
I guess the question becomes: is it a big enough deal to be an issue in your life?
Blue Mountains Club: bmbtc.org
Beaver Valley Club: beavervalleybrucetrail.org
Sydenham Club: sydenhambrucetrail.ca
Peninsula Club: http://pbtc.ca/