This week we found ourselves in the Chatham-Kent region of southern Ontario. Having come from the Niagara Escarpment we noticed the lack of hills and rock right away. We prayed for a hidden river valley away from the tracts of farm land. It turns out our project site was very unique. Once an old gravel pit the piece of land is currently being acquired by Ontario Parks and will be rehabilitated to become wetland habitat. Mother nature is already doing a decent job but the site is currently experiencing illegal dumping and ATV use. The hope is that once rehabilitation takes place and a new family friendly loop trail is put in it will discourage the illegal activity. The site will also become a serene rest stop for those traveling along the Trans Canada Trail.

Our volunteers were from a wide variety of groups in the area and comprised of mostly hikers, recreational road cyclists and a couple of mountain bikers. Since the rehabilitation plan is still in the works we did a demonstration of benchcut trail, raised tread construction and used some broken up concrete that had been dumped on site to demonstrate rock armouring. The project may not be a part of the final trail but it provided a great example of new building techniques to our volunteers.

We had some extra time and checked out the Chatham-Kent Trail Council’s monthly meeting on Thursday evening, spent some time looking at the rail to trail conversions that are happening in the Ridgetown area, and attended the trail opening ceremony at the Blenheim exercise track on Sunday afternoon.

It’s safe to say our first official visit of the 2011 season was a huge success. We would like to thank Kathryn Kielstra and Rick Gray for organizing the visit, Rick from Ontario Parks for the use of tools and access to the area, John and Barbara Jordan for hosting us in their amazing home, and Subaru of London, Ontario for their donation to the Chatham-Kent Trails Council.