The new groomed trails in the Blue Mountains seem to be a hit.
The Town of the Blue Mountains (TBM) began grooming the Georgian Trail from Cristie Beach Sideroad to Grey Road 21 for walking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, and other eco-friendly activities on Dec. 28.
Keith Hargreaves, a relatively new Thornbury resident who moved to the community from Toronto with his family last year, says the groomed trails have been a much safer option for his early morning runs.
“I run early before work and it’s good to be off the roads when it’s dark and the traction [on the trail] has been good,” Hargreaves said. “In the afternoons, they’re great for pulling kids in their toboggans. A great option to get outside when we all need a break for our mental health.”
In addition to the Georgian Trail, TBM groomed a loop trail at the Tomahawk Golf Course that includes a set track for cross-country skiing.
Jody Weir says she hadn’t been much of a cross-country skier in the past but this season she and her husband have been making use of the cross-country ski tracks.
“I have been on the trails since Christmas and they are very nice. My husband who is way more of an advanced skier than I also likes skiing on them,” Weir said.
Ryan Gibbons, director of community services for TBM says town staff have not had any issues with the maintenance of the trail and feedback from the community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The community has been very appreciative of the efforts of staff. The only negative feedback has been related to pet owners not cleaning after their pets. We are working to improve signage and communication to address these concerns,” Gibbons said.
Jayne Sutherland, a Thornbury resident who lives in close proximity to the trail, recently wrote a letter to town council in appreciation of the new outdoor amenity.
“I have seen steady usage on the trail from dog walkers, hikers, winter bicyclists and cross-country skiers. This is especially relevant now that many of us are stuck at home. We’re lucky our environs allow us to get outdoors, something I believe is important for our overall well being, especially now,” Sutherland wrote.
Local resident Alison Carey agrees, saying she is getting more exercise this winter than ever before because it is more enjoyable to walk without having to manoeuvre through the snow.
“Yesterday I was able to take my 90-year-old mom for a walk on the trail and she loved it,” Carey said.
Prior to the snow falling, TBM council members made the decision to invest in grooming the facilities to add more outdoor recreation options for the community this winter and through the COVID-19 stay-at-home order.
“We're more than just a ski location. I think we're an outdoor activity location. And we've tried to do what we can this year by clearing the snow and making the Georgian trail and Tomahawk available through the winter months,” said TBM councillor and chair of the town’s Leisure Activity Steering Committee, Peter Bordignon.
Gibbons says that with the success of the project, staff have discussed the potential of continuing to groom these facilities in future winter seasons, and these efforts will be included in future budgets for council consideration.
For this season, staff anticipated the cost of maintaining this stretch of the Georgian Trail for the winter months to be $26,800, and the cost of operating Tomahawk through the winter months at $12,600.
“Looking ahead at future budgets, equipment upgrades may be recommended, such as a blade for the ATV, which will help with clearing road crossings,” Gibbons added.