As seasonal weather seems here to stay, organizers of the annual Spring on the Trail are once again encouraging communities to hit the trails next weekend. Well, every weekend, for that matter.
Spring on the Trail takes place May 14 all along the Goderich to Guelph Rail Trail, or G2G, which spans 127 kilometres from, not coincidentally, Guelph to Goderich. Volunteers will be set up at each trail head in communities along the trail providing information and assistance to participants.
The annual outing is a chance for the trail group to encourage engagement and also raise some funds to keep the trails groomed and growing.
Doug Cerson, executive director of the G2G Rail Trail, says it’s about more than that though. You can walk, run, hike, or bike it, and it doesn’t matter if you do one kilometre or 10. All that matters is you get out and connect with your community.
“We really encourage local business owners to get out and celebrate the trail by challenging their employees or friends and family, service clubs, to come out, the church groups to come out and really create a sense of community at the trail head in their community that day,” Cerson said.
Last year was the first year they expanded to include Goderich and Blyth and expanded their presence in Millbank. An example of how donated dollars are used is the newly installed bridge in Millbank, which was a $70,000 project. He says that was a strong show of support for a small community.
“The majority of that $70,000 came from fundraising through Spring on the Trail and other monies from North Perth, as well as the province through their regional tourism program. So all of that money that we were able to bring together was really something that we generated out of the awareness that Spring on the Trail has brought to the G2G and the Kissing Bridge Trailway,” Cerson said.
While there’s no definite number of participants from last year’s event, he knows they had roughly 300 to 400 people give donations on the Kissing Bridge Trailway section.
“We don’t pressure anybody to stick the money in the can, so to speak. It’s all voluntary donations and it’s all done through people feeling good about having this wonderful green space between Guelph and Goderich,” Cerson said.
The trail is particularly popular with cyclists. He says when they first started Spring on the Trail, they’d joke with people to start in Guelph, stop at Anna Mae’s in Millbank for a piece of pie and then ride back home to Guelph. Many took it to heart. They’ll come out and ride the roundtrip 90 kilometres from Guelph to Millbank.
When they raise general monies such as at Spring on the Trail they try to support the smaller communities along the trail. He says some of the money will be used for trail resurfacing in Linwood.
They’re also working on campaigns for bridges right now, including the bridge over the Grand River in West Montrose and the bridge that goes over the Wallenstein connection at the feed mill over the Conestogo River. Those are going to be $1 million projects and they potentially have funding from provincial and regional governments.
“It’s all predicated on grassroots funding. So that’s what the Spring on the Trail is really all about, is building bridges, connecting communities. And if we can get the grassroots funding going on some of these big bridges then we can come in with matching dollars from the other organizations and other government bodies,” Cerson said.
They’re also putting in a bridge this fall in Blyth, which has already been funded. He says these bridges are in strategic spots where the trail gets interrupted.
“We’re really just trying to be good community members that think that somebody from the village of Monkton, Ontario should be able to cycle up or walk up to Linwood, Ontario and find their way in Elmira, just like the original rail line was supposed to accomplish moving people between places,” Cerson said.
He says it’s important to know that 99 per cent of donations to G2G go right back to the trailway, so people can feel good about donating to the cause.
He also commends local groups like the Lions Club, the Bridge Keepers group in West Montrose and the Guelph Hiking Club for keeping the trailway in such good condition.
“The politicians should be challenging each other to get out there and shaking hands and the business owners should be sending out their youthful employees with their t-shirts on that say support our business and ride the trail. And that’s what we’re really trying to strive for.”
Spring on the Trail runs May 14 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., although everyone is welcome to use the trails at anytime.