25 years of Collingwood Trails. By Nelson Phillips.
Trails are the lifeblood of North America. Once the sole means of guided transportation for all humankind, they’ve become a means of independent recreation and active outdoor lifestyle. Trails can take on human attributes – picture a network of trails as so many veins and blood vessels. To gain that organic character, groups of extremely dedicated people have to take on the task of making a trail network a reality. In Collingwood and The Blue Mountains, we’re lucky enough to have these people next door.
George Christie is one of those people. He’s responsible for helping convince the Town that turning the abandoned railway line between Meaford and Collingwood into a trail was a good idea. In 1991, George sold his chalet near Blue and bought a house in Collingwood. An avid skier and snowmobiler, he quickly noticed the lack of trailways to take him in and out of Collingwood to the sled trails near the mountain.
After establishing a trail from Harbourview Park to Blue Mountain, Christie joined the Town Parks and Recreation Committee. Inspired after a trip to Australia, where he noticed the popularity of the park surrounding the city centre of Adelaide, George hit upon the idea of doing the same in Collingwood. “It was the dream then to start the trail at Millennium Park, go all the way around town to the Hen & Chickens Boardwalk – the dream there would someday be a ferry boat to take you and your bike back to where you started.”
The defunct rail line between Collingwood and Meaford offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Around the same time the railways were shutting down, people began to recognize the health benefits of trails, Christie points out. “Collingwood was the lead in pushing to get five municipalities to agree to create this trail.” The first section of the Georgian Trail appeared in Collingwood at the north end of Birch Street. “We started to grow our network of trails. It got to the point were we had so many bits and pieces of trails scattered about town, we created a map to show their locations. We’re now in our eighth edition.”
The trails became so popular that at one point a private donor offered to donate $50,000 per year for five years to trail development – if the town would match it (which they did). Good thing, too – a recent economic impact study showed that the town of Collingwood and neighbouring communities bring in an estimated $5 million annually from Georgian Trail users alone.
The 25th anniversary edition of the Collingwood Trails map – with about 60 km of trails – is released this summer.