Like many Canadian towns, Dryden, Ontario’s economy is driven by forestry and mining. The mill used to employ over 1200 people but in the past few years has whittled the staff down to less than 300. The city is now looking at other ways to drive their economy. Tourism is on the top of the list, and trails are a great way to bring people to the area.

The trail system is not publicized but is heavily used by the Dryden Ghost Riders, the local trail running club, naturalists and residents who live on Ghost and Mavis Lakes. The Ferguson trail is the oldest and was built by a local cottage owner when a logging operation threatened the forest in his backyard. Since then, trail users have been adding sections of trail to avoid abandoned logging roads and ATV trails and to attempt to protect more of the land surrounding Ghost and Mavis Lakes.

While we were stationed in Dryden word spread that the local logging company may be headed to where the trails were located. Mysterious lengths of flagging tape were popping up around the forest and rumours started circulating that logging operations could be starting as early as the following week. We wanted to make sure that the trails were safe before moving on with planning our project. After a few phone calls and a meeting with the forestry company it was discovered, much to our host’s relief, that it had been a misunderstanding and the area surrounding the trails was safe. What we learned was that the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) in the Dryden area was very willing to work with the local trail users. All they required was a map of all of the existing trails, details on any future connectors, and someone to contact for when the next forestry plan is released.

This prompted the Ghost Riders to contact the other user groups and form a new alliance that represented all interested parties. The trail runners have since completed GPS maps of all the trails and are now working with the mountain bikers to plan and design a few needed connectors to get trail users off any public roads. They have also elected one contact person to liaise between the trail alliance, the MNR and forestry company. These are important first steps to help protect the trails in the area.

Knowing that the trails would be safe we carried on with the layout of our project for the weekend workshop. We created a single track connector from the main parking area to the existing single track so that trail users wouldn’t have to travel 100 meters on the road. We also designed in some technical rock features to mimic the rocky terrain that users would encounter on the trails in the area. We had 20 dedicated volunteers show up to work and we completed the 100 meter project in 2.5 hours.

We had a solid group ride on Sunday followed by an unofficial meeting of the new trail alliance. It was a fantastic way to wrap up the visit seeing all the users groups working together to save the trails that they love so much. A big thank you to our host Stephen from the Ghost Riders for guiding us around the trails and putting us up in his home.