Quick, answer this question: How many hiking trails are within close distance to where you live?
Thanks to South Nation Conservation (SNC) you can add a new one to the short list. Two Creeks Conservation Area, just off County Road 2 between Morrisburg and Iroquois, is free and open for visitors.
At the October 18th South Dundas council meeting, SNC Assistant Works Superintendents David Fitch and Mike Leger gave a presentation on the progress made and the plans that remain. SNC Board Chair Lawrence Levere was also present.
The 400 acres of property previously owned by Domtar became available for purchase when Domtar closed.
SNC took the opportunity to purchase the land and credits Don Graham for the find: “he was a great help to us to get this thing started.”
Graham, a member of DIAMONDS Conservation Land Trust (DCLT), had an agreement with Domtar whereby the land was used for trails and open to the public.
Graham explained that when Domtar began “to pull out of things locally, we (DCLT) had to get out too because we didn’t have an agreement” with anyone else for use of the land.
DCLT and Graham talked with SNC and left information about the area and the situation in the hope that they would pick up the land, and with it the project.
“Their purposes are exactly what Diamonds were,” said Graham. “I supplied background information” to help SNC.
“The future now looks rosy; looks like it could be fun for Morrisburg, Iroquois and South Dundas,” he said. Two Creeks is “a real boon to the township.”
Fitch reported to council that local contractors, Lloyd McMillan Equipment Ltd. of Iroquois and Cruikshank Construction of Morrisburg, have been helping out on the park.
It’s been “very good for us and for the township, working together on this,” said Fitch.
He told council that one of the first steps, “getting the parking lot back in order and usable,” is now completed.
In addition, the first trail section is “about 99 per cent completed.” The second and third trail sections will take longer, probably years, to complete. The “time frame depends on usage of the park.”
As for the trail that’s completed, Fitch reported: “Right now we have about four and a half kilometers of trail that’s been reestablished.”
“We’ve had to put a lot of hard work into this (as there was) quite a lot of bush hogging in there to get it cleared out.”
“Approximately 150 tons of gravel” was used due to wet and low areas. Fitch estimates that by the time SNC is done they’ll have used “half a million tons of gravel.”
“Because of the length of the trail, we can’t do it all in one shot,” he explained. Also, due to the “creek that runs through the property, (SNC) had to build a bridge across.”
Building the bridge required a permit and an on site inspection. The trails are five feet wide and the bridge, which has been “heavily constructed to hold vehicles (is) 52 feet long with ramps down both sides.”
The “possibilities are endless with this park,” Fitch said, predicting: “You’ll find there’s going to be a lot of use in this park.”
He showed council a picture of the “Two Creeks Conservation Area” sign that SNC plans to erect on County Road 2, saying, “this should bring a lot more people to the park.”
South Dundas Deputy Mayor Jim Locke complimented SNC saying, it “looks like a job well done. (There’s) a lot of potential.”
“This is going to get used quite a bit,” he predicted.
While motorized vehicles are prohibited on the trails, bicycles are welcomed.
In terms of money spent on the project, Fitch told council that so far SNC has spent “about $6,000 to $7,000 in materials.”
“We didn’t waste anything,” he continued. It was “all planned out; we knew what we needed.”
The “parking lot was the biggest expense, “ he explained. It “might have been under $10,000 total.”
“Over the years there will be quite a bit of money put into it. Eventually there will be over ten kilometers of trails.”
Councillor Evonne Delegarde inquired as to whether the trails would be open in winter. Fitch replied, “most are closed in the winter time, but are used year round, 24/7.”
He further explained “closed” meant that the trails are not groomed during winter, but the area is still “open” and accessible to the public.
SNC’s Levere added, “we’re not in the business of keeping people out of our parks for legitimate uses.”
Many people use SNC trails for hiking, bird watching, cross-country skiing, biking and more.
According to their website, SNC “encourage all watershed residents to become familiar with the unique beauty of your natural surroundings and understand the importance of maintaining our local environment.”
They ask that visitors “take only pictures and leave only footprints.”
South Dundas Mayor, Steven Byvelds said, “I hope we can promote this together.”
Levere responded with a slightly altered quote from the movie Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come.”