In the early 1920s, Upper Canada College acquired land in the small village of Norval, just outside Georgetown, ON, with hopes to relocate their boarding school to the country. But in the years following the First World War, expansion was out of the question. Rather than relocate the entire school to Norval, the Board decided to keep the property as a field centre to cultivate the boys’ outdoor education. For many decades after, students travelled to Norval to camp, learn survival skills, and plant trees.

Today, the 400 acre property is covered with a combination of mixed deciduous forest along with plantations of mature pine and spruce trees – a lush green space surrounded by the sprawl of Brampton and Georgetown.

While students no longer plant trees at Norval, they still visit the centre to learn to appreciate nature and the environment; away from cell phones, the internet, and video games.

Last week, IMBA Canada’s Trail Specialist, Daniel Scott, and Trail Care Crew were invited to Norval to teach students the basics of sustainable trail design and building as part of their Upper Schools’ Service Learning Project.

Throughout the week, the boys learned the theory of trail building in the classroom, then took their new knowledge out into the field to put the finishing touches on 1km of contour benchcut, which was machine-built by Bill and Rich Goulding of Sustainable Trails Ltd..

While rain and snow made work slow on day one of the build, we were lucky to see the sun for the remainder of the week. As the newly-cut trail dried out, the students helped cut the backslope, and also broadcast the heavy soil and sod with hand tools. The new trail, which runs along the beautiful Credit River, will allow emergency ATV access to the north-most point of the property, and will also be used for hiking, mountain biking, and skiing in the winter.

Special thanks to UCC’s Michael Bain (McBain) for inviting us and facilitating the build, and also to IMBA’s Ontario Coordinator Igor Hoogendoorn for joining us to play in some dirt.

We hope trail building can take root as a new legacy project for students!