Spring is on its way, and for many that means it's time to venture back outdoors. Public trails provide a great way to explore the region, and one local trail group is looking for people to join their group, and help keep paths in good shape so everyone can continue to enjoy them.
The AvonTrail is a scenic route that joins the Thames Valley Trail in St. Mary's to the Grand Valley Trail in Waterloo Region. This 113 km link winds its way through the outskirts of Stratford, Shakespeare and Wilmot Township, before ending in Conestogo. It was established in 1975, and is a foot path that winds through forests, farmland, and around rivers and streams. Carol Miller is a member of AvonTrail.ca, and says the group is looking for more help, in particular volunteers from Waterloo Region who would be willing to take care of the trail's eastern end. Currently there are approximately 80 volunteers who maintain the trail, most of whom are from Perth County.
"Our group tends to be pretty Stratford-centred right now,' says Miller. "What we'd like to do is create a satellite association of volunteers at the Waterloo Region end to help maintain that part of the trail."
Miller says the trail is maintained entirely by volunteer members. The hiking club started more than 40 years ago and there are a number of different ways they take care of the trail. Volunteers called Trail Monitors walk sections of the trail 3 times a year to clear paths of growth, and make notes of larger maintenance work that needs to be done. Members of the Trail Crews take care of the heavier work- clearing trees that are blocking paths, building and repairing bridges and stiles and building boardwalks to help make the trail easier to navigate.
"Right now a lot of our members have to travel a fair distance to get to where work is needed on the trail," says Miller. More volunteers from the Waterloo Region end of the Avon Trail would reduce the amount of time and travel required for trail upkeep.
As the AvonTrail approaches its 45th anniversary next year, members look forward to more people discovering its beauty. "There is signage at trail access points, but some trail users may not even realize they're on the AvonTrail," says Miller. For anyone wanting to try the trail, there are hikes that happen regularly that are led by qualified hike leaders. "We have regular Tuesday morning rambles from Stratford and hike a different part of the trail each week," says Miller. For people interested in exploring more of the trail, there are also scheduled weekend group hikes that are longer. Anyone wanting to use the trail at any time can download the Avon Trail App from ONDAGO to help them navigate their way. This free app is interactive, and shows hikers exactly where they are as they travel along the trail. It's downloaded directly to a device, and doesn't require a data connection to use it on the trail.
Miller says anyone interested in becoming a member of the AvonTrail or who would like more information about the group, is welcome to contact them through the website (AvonTrail.ca) or their Facebook page.