Back in 2021, a group of hikers accidentally became engaged in conversation with a board member from the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society in the parking lot at Beautiful Joe Park (162 Edwin Street). Their destination was Trout Hollow Trail, across from the park, but the next thing they’re on a spontaneous guided tour of Beautiful Joe Park.
They must have enjoyed it, as a few weeks later, another tour was requested by the Collingwood Nature League, and about 30 of their members experienced the history of this unique park in downtown Meaford. As the tour group stood by the Bighead River, the site of the future pedestrian bridge crossing to Legion Park, it was suggested by Jane Bramwell, their fundraising director, that the group help the Society to make the accessible footbridge a reality. On December 1, 2023, members of the two groups gathered once again in Beautiful Joe Park to connect for this generous donation of $3,000.
In October 2023, the Nature League’s Fall Fling Dance Party at the Collingwood Legion raised $1,500 for the Beautiful Joe Heritage Society. It was a fun evening with an entertaining DJ, silent auction, 50/50 draw, dancing and refreshments. Their board later decided to match funds to bring the total donation to $3,000. The Nature League is dedicated to promoting an awareness and appreciation of our natural surroundings focusing on the Georgian Triangle. It envisions a future where residents can live in harmony with nature. Eighty per cent of their income is donated to like-minded charities of which they felt the bridge project was worthy. Their membership is currently about 125 and are welcoming new members who enjoy hiking, guided walking tours, nature, and supporting environmental organizations. http://www.natureleague.ca for further info.
The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society, a registered charity, is actively fundraising and have already reached $50,000 of the $130,000 goal. The group started back in 1994 on the 100th anniversary of the publication of Beautiful Joe, the story of our local dog that made him famous world-wide, written by Nova Scotian Margaret Marshall Saunders. The Society had the vision to turn the parkland where he is buried into a place that celebrates the animal/human bond. As they develop it into a tourist attraction, the steeply sloped driveway is problematic. The Society studied the issue back in 2011, and it was determined that the only way forward would be to have a level pedestrian bridge joining the two parks – Beautiful Joe Park and Legion Park. Currently, school buses, oversized vehicles, and tour buses are unable to safely access the park due to the slope, and inability to turn around once in the parking lot.
The bridge would enable everyone, especially families pushing strollers or those using ambulatory devices, to safely gain entry to this unique and historic greenspace – just an eight minute walk from downtown Meaford. Future Legion Park development would include flush washrooms.
To learn more about this nugget of local history, visit www.beautifuljoe.org. Donate online or e-transfers are accepted at email@example.com. Tours can also be arranged through this email address or by leaving a message at 519-538-5895.