Volunteers help clean up Ridgetown trail

·3 min read

A local trail in Ridgetown has received several helping hands from the community.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent has received a Trail Care grant from Trans Canada Trail to help maintain the TCT portion of the CASO Trail. The railway turned trail in Ridgetown has been recognized with one of five Trans Canada Trail events across the country.

According to Genevieve Champagne, the municipality’s active transportation co-ordinator, the municipality used a $2,000 grant to help volunteers clean up the CASO Trail for an event held on June 1. While many trails received similar grants from Trans Canada Trail, just a few were recognized by representatives from the trail network and Columbia Sportswear, which also sponsored the event.

“Five trails across Canada were chosen, and we got lucky, and we got picked as one of those featured trails,” she said.

Volunteers from across Chatham-Kent worked hard to clean up the CASO Trail. They focused on a section in Ridgetown between Erie Street North and Victoria Road.

Champagne said the grant provided her with funding to be able to purchase materials to have the trail topped up, have staff out, crusher dust, have the volunteers out and available and be able to provide refreshments.

“We do have garbage pickers and bags for garbage, but today is more about cleaning up the materials along the trail, trimming it back to make sure that it’s accessible and has enough room for everyone to cycle, walk and get through the trail.”

While many spent their day helping pick up trash from the trail, Champagne said it’s actually the plant growth that comes onto the trail from its sides that’s the bigger issue.

“It encroaches and closes in the trail and kind of tightens it up,” she said. “When we groom the trail, we turn up the top of it. We pull out the grass and any of that debris, and then it fluffs it up and gives it more accessible usage.”

Champagne said despite the trail not being intended for motorized vehicles, there are some exceptions.

“We understand that farmers and those with ATVs need to access the trails to gain access to their own personal land, so we try not to prohibit that. We also respect the owner’s preference for no motorized vehicles, which is why we have gates,” said Champagne.

She clarified that emergency services have keys to get through the gates. The signs also have emergency codes that go through the location of the signs.

“For example, it will say Erie Street North (ESN), then it will say East or West so that it identifies which side of the road they’re on, and then which exit they are in relation to the 401,” she said.

Champagne said she noticed a significant rise in the usage of the trials since the pandemic. In fact, a poll conducted by Trans Canada Trail in November 2020 found trail use was up by almost 50 percent in all age groups by that point in the pandemic.

The first phase of the CASO trail opened in October 2019. The next phase, a 32-kilometre stretch from Communication Road to Mull Road, is expected to finish in October. It will become the longest trail in Chatham-Kent.

“I’m really happy I get to build trails like this. Chatham-Kent is becoming more active- transportation friendly. It’s exciting to see people using the trails,” said Champagne.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News

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