As one who regularly transported her tandem bike from Owen Sound to Meaford to link up to the Georgian Trail, Ruth Ann English recognized immediately what trail builders had been calling the ‘missing link’, a stretch between Owen Sound and Meaford that, for the lack of a rail bed, was the missing link in the Bruce Grey Trails Master Plan.
In February of 2001, when the question was asked: ‘Who would like to work on establishing a trail between Owen Sound and Meaford’, volunteers were quick to raise their hands, Ruth Ann among them. Eighteen years later and hundreds of volunteer hours, the missing link is now known as the Tom Thomson Trail in honour of the Canadian landscape artist who grew up on a farm in the Leith area and whose name has become synonymous with the Group of Seven. The trail is a 44.1-kilometre, three-season trail designed for hiking, cycling, and horseback riding, and follows paved lanes, quiet gravel roadways, and woodland pathways.
No small achievement. Locally, it is a vital link in the Bruce Grey network of trails that extends along the Lake Huron and Georgian Bay shorelines. Provincially, it is part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail that extends from east of Cornwall, around the shores of the Great Lakes, to Sault Ste Marie - more than 3,000 kilometres.
“After working on building the trail for 18 years and completing the connection between Meaford and Owen Sound about two years ago, it is time for new and younger volunteers to assist with, and reorganize how the work of maintaining the trail gets done,” Ruth Ann said.
Ruth Ann, her vice-chair Tom Hakala, and volunteers extraordinaire Greg and Suzanne Brown from Meaford are actively seeking new volunteers in the Meaford area. They would assist other Meaford area volunteers - Len Rhodes, Scott and Paula Luce, and Bill Abbotts - who have been committed to the project for years. “There is a need to shift the focus from trail building to trail maintenance,” she said. “We're looking for a trail captain at the Meaford end as well as general trail maintenance volunteers to work with the trail captain, to monitor, repair, and maintain the trail.”
For more information and to volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Tom Thomson Trail, go to tomthomsontrail.com, and the Great Lake Waterfront Trail, waterfronttrail.org.
Photo: Right: Greg Brown of Meaford leads a group of volunteers during a work bee on the two kilometre woodland stretch of the Tom Thomson Trail. The woodland path starts at the intersection of GR 112 and Sideroad 22 and is part of the 44.1-kilometre trail between Meaford and Owen Sound. Now that the trail is completed, volunteers are needed to monitor, repair, and maintain the trail, kiosks, benches, and signs. To volunteer, contact email@example.com. Photo courtesy of Robert Burcher.