A path through Ontario's heritage

Toronto Star, October 5, 2002. -

A path through Ontario's heritage
Bruce Trail marks 35th anniversary - Mary Gordon STAFF REPORTER

Canada's longest and oldest footpath is celebrating its birthday this weekend. But the Bruce Trail, at the ripe old age of 35, is just a baby compared to the Niagara Escarpment along which the trail runs. The landform is said to have originated 450 million years ago, which is one of the reasons why so many naturalists and hundreds of volunteers are so eager to preserve it.

There are other reasons, too. The northern part of the escarpment is home to 37 types of wild orchids. You can see bald eagles, along with 300 other kinds of birds. There are stunning views from rocky limestone cliffs, which sprout 400- to 1,000-year-old trees. If you're particularly lucky and/or attentive, you could see 34 different species of reptiles, like the rare northern dusky salamander and the Eastern Massasauga rattlesnake. Just watch out for that southern flying squirrel. "It really is a haven for naturalists," said Marsha Russell of the Bruce Trail Association.
The trail runs from the Niagara peninsula to Tobermory, and 47 per cent of it has been secured on public land. The remaining 53 per cent is either on roads and road allowances or cuts through private property through "handshake agreements" with co-operative landowners. While the association is grateful to the landowners, it must "start from scratch" whenever those lands are sold, Russell said. The goal is to acquire the land (by donation or by purchase) by 2015, to ensure the trail survives.
The biggest obstacles facing the trail are development and soaring land prices, Russell said. "There has been a tremendous amount of development. Property values are increasing at such a fast rate." She estimates that an acre of escarpment property can cost as much as $6,000. "The Caledon Hills area is just out of sight," she said.
The trail is maintained by the association and volunteers, who will be out tomorrow in various locations to guide interpretive hikes for people of all ranges and abilities. "You can bring your bad hips and your children," she laughed. "The volunteers picked each site with the fall colours in mind, so it should be quite spectacular."

The hike nearest Toronto leaves every 30 minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. from the historic village of Limehouse (near Georgetown in Halton Region). Hikers will see several 19th-century lime kilns, which were used for extracting lime from limestone. The hike passes along deeply creviced landscape on the escarpment's edge, through a narrow passage in the rock called "Hole-in-the-Wall," then up two ladders to the top of the escarpment.

Visit www.brucetrail.org or call 1-800-665-HIKE for more Bruce Trail Day information.

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