The Township Empire: our parks, fields and trails

·6 min read

In this series about the properties that belong to you, the taxpayer of the Township of Uxbridge, so far we’ve discussed our community halls, libraries and museum. But now we’ll switch from buildings to outdoor recreational spaces, for the township is blessed with a great variety of parks, playing fields and of course, trails (for which we were dubbed the Trail Capital of Canada by the federal government in 2008 ).

Many of the trails in the rural areas of Uxbridge are managed by conservation authorities and other entities, but the Township maintains more than 30 km of trails within the urban boundary, listed here in alphabetical order. How many of these have you walked?

1. Barton Trail is a 2 km trail that encircles the Barton Farms community, and connects with Herrema Fields and the Trans Canada Trail.

2. Brookdale Trail is a local 3.7 km portion of the Trans Canada Trail that runs from Elgin Park to Brookdale Road.

3. Butternut Trail is a 1.5 km sidewalk loop through the residential area at Brock Street and South Balsam Drive, passing the original farm homestead and the namesake Butternut tree. It links to the South Balsam Trail to the south and the Quaker Trail to the north.

4. The Countryside Preserve has 6 km. of marked trails within 140 acres of meadowland, woodland, wetland and ponds, located just south of the urban boundary of Uxbridge. Access is provided behind the shopping complex on Highway 47 at Concession 6. Permitted uses include walking, running, bicycling, cross‐country skiing, and snowshoeing. It was opened in 2005.

5. Ewen Trail comprises 3.4 km with the main trailhead at the intersection of Main Street and Mills Street. This trail travels through rural and urban areas, including a section through Elgin Park.

6. Historic Rotary Trail is mostly an on‐street 2.4 km. trail which runs through the oldest parts of Uxbridge, including Centennial Park and Elgin Park. It has historical interpretive signage along its route.

7. John McCutcheon Way is an important part of the Trans Canada Trail within Uxbridge and includes a refurbished rail trestle bridge.

8. Maple Bridge Trail is a single path that is 1.5 km in length, running alongside a stream with a connection to the Quaker Trail.

9. O’Neil Trail is a 2.4 km wooded trail located on the Fields of Uxbridge site.

10. Quaker Trail is located northwest of the intersection of Brock Street West and Quaker Village Drive. The trail totals 3.7 km, with a portion of the trail located in Quaker Village Park, and has connections to the Uxbridge Historical Centre.

11. South Balsam Trail is 2.5 km in length with some portions running along urban streets and others portions taking users through more natural settings.

12. Wooden Sticks Trail is approximately 2 km in length with sections running through Elgin Park, a dense wooded area, and the Estates of Wooden Sticks housing development.

13. Kettle Pond Trail in Goodwood is 1.1 km. in length and is an easy walk through a meadow and around a glacier-formed kettle pond. The trail can be accessed from the Goodwood Community Hall or from Lapierre St.

The largest of our public parks is the Fields of Uxbridge, the former grounds of the St. John’s School and Kennedy House facility, a 111-acre site which was acquired from the Province of Ontario in 2008. It contains the skatepark and pump park, a new baseball diamond, multiple soccer fields, and perhaps one day, a new swimming pool (on the site of the old school building).

Our oldest park is Elgin Park, a beautiful green space first set aside in the mid-19th century. Its 22 acres can be very busy, as they were for the recent Fall Fair, or quiet as a whisper, early on a winter’s morning. The park has everything from a bandshell to a series of workout stations, and will soon have a fully accessible playground, to which you can donate through the Uxbridge Lions Club. Elgin Park is also headquarters for most of the Township’s summer camps, which utilize the full range of the municipality’s recreational spaces, indoor and outdoor. And at Christmas, it’s the site for the Optimist Club’s Fantasy of Lights.

The great variety of Uxbridge parks includes Centennial, behind the library, which has Uxbridge Brook running beside it (and used to be the site of the town dump!); Bonner Fields, nestled north of Reach Street, which includes the town’s only outdoor pickleball court; Veterans’ Memorial, on the eastern edge of Elgin Pond; and Herrema Fields, east of Barton Farms. There are also several small parkettes scattered through town, most of them designated in residential plans, and assumed by the Township once the subdivisions were opened.

Each of our hamlets also has a fairly substantial park. The community halls are each beside one, while Leaskdale’s is hidden to the north of Harrison Drive. And Goodwood has a second one, Harold Bell Memorial Park, with a number of playing fields, including beach volleyball. Speaking of which, most outdoor sports have places to play in Uxbridge, including tennis (at the arena, Bonner Fields and in Goodwood), lacrosse (on a number of the soccer pitches), and even basketball. Not to mention special parks for splashers and off-leash canines!

Management: All the above spaces (as well as miscellaneous jobs like emptying garbage cans and watering hanging flower pots) are taken care of by only six employees, on contract from April through October. Come winter, many of them move to the arena, or to the roads department. For late spring and summer, they are assisted by a number of students, mostly focussed on horticulture (parks employees maintain the grounds and flowers at all Township properties) and camps. All are supervised by parks manager Courtney Clarke and director Amanda Ferraro.

The parks have a multitude of uses, and a corresponding multitude of user organizations, most of which play an active role in administration and maintenance. For example, Parks mows the grass on the pitches at the Fields of Uxbridge, but the Soccer Club paints the lines and puts together the very complicated practice and game schedule. There is a Trail Committee which has played a huge role in the development of the trail system over the last couple of decades, and continues to marshal volunteers in its maintenance. Over at Elgin Park, the Fair Board, although naturally focussed on its signature event, donates its energy for many other uses year-round, and plays an advisory role in the ongoing development of the park.

“We’ve had strong relationships with most of these groups for a very long time,” says Ferraro. “Uxbridge is fortunate to have such a large park and trail system in relation to its population, and its success has a lot to do with these great partnerships.”

Funding: Operationally, the parks and trails will cost us about $1.07 million this year, mostly on salaries and maintenance. That will be balanced by about $128,000 in revenues, mostly from user fees to soccer and softball players. On the capital side, $2.2 million in improvements were planned for this season: improvements in lighting, fences, bridges, irrigation. Grants from senior government will contribute more than $1.2 million to that expense.

Conrad Boyce, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Uxbridge Cosmos