While it started as an idea born from a group of University of Toronto students back in 1973, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Kolapore Wilderness Trails.
The Kolapore trails, located 20 kilometres southwest of Collingwood, were started in February of 1973 by a group of students who were members of the University of Toronto’s Outing Club during a visit to a cabin near the site, as they saw the potential to create a series of cross-country ski trails.
One of the original students from 1973, Bruce King, now serves as president of the trails association.
“I’m the only one around still who has been active with the trails since Day 1,” said King with a laugh, noting that in 1973, cross-country skiing had just become popular.
A federal grant allowed the hiring of workers during the summer of 1973, and these workers plus volunteers created the initial trail network at that time.
King says for the first decade, the trails served primarily as a cross-country ski trail, but over time evolved to include options for cyclists and hikers.
“In the late 1980s, mountain biking really came along and mountain bikers were looking for places to ride,” he said. “We decided to work together and expand our scope.”
The 50 kilometres of trails are managed by the Kolapore Wilderness Trails Association. All costs associated with trail maintenance are funded through donations and membership sales, while the trail is maintained entirely by volunteers.
Costs include insurance, snow removal and portable toilets in the main parking lot, and materials and tools used by volunteers to build bridges, clear trails and maintain signage.
As of now, parking is free at the Kolapore parking lots run by the association and Grey County. Looking toward the future, King says he does have some concerns about whether it will always stay that way.
“We are hoping that memberships and donations will continue to carry that,” he said. “The challenge is the cost of snowplowing – because of insurance – had escalated dramatically in recent years. Insurance is a significant cost for us; (it’s) about 20 per cent of our budget.”
Some of the benefits of membership include access to monthly e-newsletters and early-bird ticketing for association events.
“The major benefit is the good feeling of knowing you’re helping to support the trails,” said King. “I’ve been willing to work on this for 50 years because there have been a lot of great volunteers over the years, and there continues to be volunteers, but we always need more.”
Several anniversary events are scheduled to occur throughout 2023 and into 2024, including a Blue Moon hike, a geology hike, an ecology hike, and a special trail maintenance day. The biggest event will be a celebration dinner and dance at the Marsh Street Centre on Feb. 24, 2024.
“It’s exciting. What’s really great is seeing that there continues to be excitement around the trails. There are new people getting engaged. I’m an old-timer, but so many of the people who are involved with the trails now are relative newcomers to them, which brings new energy,” he said.
To keep up-to-date on the events to mark the trail’s 50th anniversary, visit the association on Facebook here.
For more information on the trails including how to apply for membership or volunteer, click here.