Grand Trails for the Grand River

Opinion Mar 10, 2017 Waterloo Region Record

The Grand River is a Canadian natural treasure that too few Canadians either know or appreciate.

Isolated images of a wild river cutting through Elora's limestone gorge, of a pastoral stream meandering past lush Waterloo Region farmland or an urban waterway rushing beneath Cambridge's bridges, mill ruins and soaring church steeples — these are how most people see the Grand.

They're no more than glimpses from a car window, unconnected snapshots or selfie backgrounds.

But what if there was a way to experience all 300 kilometres of southern Ontario's longest river, from the boggy Grey County highlands where it literally bubbles out of the ground down to the Six Nations Reserve, the country's largest First Nations community, and finally on to the broad, marshland delta that feeds Lake Erie?

What if people could access its varied and beautiful landscapes as never before?

Would they feel a greater connection to the land and water? Could greater awareness of this natural wonder even teach us to be better stewards of it?

The answers to these questions may come in the bold Grand Trails project, which aims to create a trail network that would allow people to hike, cycle and canoe the full length of this magnificent river.

It's an idea, a vision and a proposal more than a reality today.

But as it is brought before municipal governments in Waterloo Region and other parts of the watershed in the coming weeks and months, we hope it wins support.

There's so much potential here.

A system that links existing and new trails and that also connects with other pathways, such as the Trans Canada Trail, would encourage more people than ever before to experience the river in all its natural, historical and cultural diversity.

The hundreds of thousands of people living in the watershed could find a riverside refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life, a place for recreation and relaxation, solitude or companionship.

Visitors from other parts of the province or country would discover why the federal government decades ago declared the Grand a Canadian Heritage River.

There are undoubtedly opportunities to promote and boost the tourist industry in the watershed. That would be an economic bonus to the plan.

Developing a Grand Trails system could link the communities in this watershed as never before. Places like Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, Ohsweken, Cayuga and Dunnville are all part of the Grand River family.

If we all understood this more, perhaps we would insist on better environmental protection for the river and its valley. And a practical upside of this would be better quality of a drinking water supply that hundreds of thousands of people depend on.

As welcome as the proposal for this trail system is, it won't come together soon. It will take years, even decades, to put it all together.

But there's no better time than today for politicians, naturalists, environmentalists and dedicated citizens to start talking and planning.

Tomorrow's trail of 300 kilometres will begin with the tentative footsteps we take today.

Grand Trails for the Grand River

Opinion Mar 10, 2017 Waterloo Region Record

The Grand River is a Canadian natural treasure that too few Canadians either know or appreciate.

Isolated images of a wild river cutting through Elora's limestone gorge, of a pastoral stream meandering past lush Waterloo Region farmland or an urban waterway rushing beneath Cambridge's bridges, mill ruins and soaring church steeples — these are how most people see the Grand.

They're no more than glimpses from a car window, unconnected snapshots or selfie backgrounds.

But what if there was a way to experience all 300 kilometres of southern Ontario's longest river, from the boggy Grey County highlands where it literally bubbles out of the ground down to the Six Nations Reserve, the country's largest First Nations community, and finally on to the broad, marshland delta that feeds Lake Erie?

What if people could access its varied and beautiful landscapes as never before?

Would they feel a greater connection to the land and water? Could greater awareness of this natural wonder even teach us to be better stewards of it?

The answers to these questions may come in the bold Grand Trails project, which aims to create a trail network that would allow people to hike, cycle and canoe the full length of this magnificent river.

It's an idea, a vision and a proposal more than a reality today.

But as it is brought before municipal governments in Waterloo Region and other parts of the watershed in the coming weeks and months, we hope it wins support.

There's so much potential here.

A system that links existing and new trails and that also connects with other pathways, such as the Trans Canada Trail, would encourage more people than ever before to experience the river in all its natural, historical and cultural diversity.

The hundreds of thousands of people living in the watershed could find a riverside refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life, a place for recreation and relaxation, solitude or companionship.

Visitors from other parts of the province or country would discover why the federal government decades ago declared the Grand a Canadian Heritage River.

There are undoubtedly opportunities to promote and boost the tourist industry in the watershed. That would be an economic bonus to the plan.

Developing a Grand Trails system could link the communities in this watershed as never before. Places like Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, Ohsweken, Cayuga and Dunnville are all part of the Grand River family.

If we all understood this more, perhaps we would insist on better environmental protection for the river and its valley. And a practical upside of this would be better quality of a drinking water supply that hundreds of thousands of people depend on.

As welcome as the proposal for this trail system is, it won't come together soon. It will take years, even decades, to put it all together.

But there's no better time than today for politicians, naturalists, environmentalists and dedicated citizens to start talking and planning.

Tomorrow's trail of 300 kilometres will begin with the tentative footsteps we take today.

Grand Trails for the Grand River

Opinion Mar 10, 2017 Waterloo Region Record

The Grand River is a Canadian natural treasure that too few Canadians either know or appreciate.

Isolated images of a wild river cutting through Elora's limestone gorge, of a pastoral stream meandering past lush Waterloo Region farmland or an urban waterway rushing beneath Cambridge's bridges, mill ruins and soaring church steeples — these are how most people see the Grand.

They're no more than glimpses from a car window, unconnected snapshots or selfie backgrounds.

But what if there was a way to experience all 300 kilometres of southern Ontario's longest river, from the boggy Grey County highlands where it literally bubbles out of the ground down to the Six Nations Reserve, the country's largest First Nations community, and finally on to the broad, marshland delta that feeds Lake Erie?

What if people could access its varied and beautiful landscapes as never before?

Would they feel a greater connection to the land and water? Could greater awareness of this natural wonder even teach us to be better stewards of it?

The answers to these questions may come in the bold Grand Trails project, which aims to create a trail network that would allow people to hike, cycle and canoe the full length of this magnificent river.

It's an idea, a vision and a proposal more than a reality today.

But as it is brought before municipal governments in Waterloo Region and other parts of the watershed in the coming weeks and months, we hope it wins support.

There's so much potential here.

A system that links existing and new trails and that also connects with other pathways, such as the Trans Canada Trail, would encourage more people than ever before to experience the river in all its natural, historical and cultural diversity.

The hundreds of thousands of people living in the watershed could find a riverside refuge from the hustle and bustle of city life, a place for recreation and relaxation, solitude or companionship.

Visitors from other parts of the province or country would discover why the federal government decades ago declared the Grand a Canadian Heritage River.

There are undoubtedly opportunities to promote and boost the tourist industry in the watershed. That would be an economic bonus to the plan.

Developing a Grand Trails system could link the communities in this watershed as never before. Places like Grand Valley, Fergus, Elora, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Paris, Brantford, Caledonia, Ohsweken, Cayuga and Dunnville are all part of the Grand River family.

If we all understood this more, perhaps we would insist on better environmental protection for the river and its valley. And a practical upside of this would be better quality of a drinking water supply that hundreds of thousands of people depend on.

As welcome as the proposal for this trail system is, it won't come together soon. It will take years, even decades, to put it all together.

But there's no better time than today for politicians, naturalists, environmentalists and dedicated citizens to start talking and planning.

Tomorrow's trail of 300 kilometres will begin with the tentative footsteps we take today.