CENTRE WELLINGTON – For more than 25 years, the Elora Cataract Trail Association (ECTA) has worked to promote, improve, and protect the 47km trailway that extends from Elora to Cataract at the Forks of the Credit Provincial Park.
The trailway was originally part of the Credit Valley Railway, which was constructed in 1879.
The Grand River and Credit Valley Conservation authorities acquired the right-of-way in 1993.
Development of the trailway was made possible by financial support from the Province of Ontario, the Grand Valley Conservation Foundation, and by corporate and private donors.
The ECTA’s goal has been to create a greenway or linear park through which people can explore the environment in different ways while encouraging the protection of natural and cultural heritage values.
ECTA chair J. Raymond Soucy said volunteers play a crucial role in preserving the trailway.
“We organize a lot of the volunteering. For instance, we had our public annual general meeting in April,” Soucy said.
“As part of that, we’re in the process of redesigning all the signage on all the different kiosks, which is a multi-year project, but we’re just about there.”
Memberships are a major contributor to the upkeep of the trailway and can be purchased for $25 for one year or $100 for five years.
The ETCA has a board of about 12 members with volunteers reporting to trail captains for various projects.
The organization also offers a bike bell program to increase safety awareness and educate trail users.
“It’s a multi-use trail, so you can walk it, run it, you can have dogs, bikes, and horses on some parts during certain times of the year,” Soucy said.
“We have events where we give away bike bells to the public. Funny enough, you don’t have to wear a helmet as an adult, but legally you are required to have a bell.”
The physical maintenance of the trailway is contracted out by the Grand River Conservation Authority and the ECTA is currently working with the organization on a major maintenance initiative to recondition the trail over the next two years.
“The biggest challenge we see now is people respecting other people. The number one complaint we’re getting is dog owners letting their dogs run loose,” Soucy commented.
“And I get it, you know, because it’s a ‘my dog’s friendly’ kind of thing. But even a friendly 60-pound dog jumping on someone may not be friendly to other people.”
The other ongoing concern has been clean up when it comes to dog droppings.
“Sometimes people seem to pick up their dog poop in a bag and then leave it on the trail, instead of carrying it out with them,” said Soucy.
Along with the conservation authorities, the ECTA also works closely with the Township of Centre Wellington.
“There’s an economic impact to having a good trail network, especially in our area where we attract so much tourism,” he said.
“We’re a part of Hike Ontario, which is a provincial umbrella organization for hiking trails, and we meet with the Guelph Hiking Trail Club, and the G2G Rail Trail (Goderich to Guelph). It’s very important for us to work together.”
The ECTA also prints 10,000 copies of a trailway map it produces each year which are distributed to tourism offices, libraries and various individuals who request them.
The map, along with other information about the Elora Cataract Trailway, can be found at trailway.org and individuals interested in volunteering can email email@example.com.