A happy kid busi­ness

Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails school pro­gram get­ting rave re­views

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - FRONT PAGE - TODD HAMBLETON

SUM­MER­STOWN STA­TION – With Friends like this, of course there’s go­ing to be an an­nual visit or two.

Rox­more Pub­lic School teacher Nicole Beaulieu and stu­dents from the school in Avon­more have been mak­ing reg­u­lar vis­its to the Sum­mer­stown For­est over the last few win­ters, tak­ing ad­van­tage of a pro­gram that con­tin­ues to draw rave re­views.

“Not only are the ac­tiv­i­ties amaz­ing, but the wel­com­ing party is re­ally amaz­ing,” said Beaulieu, talk­ing about the ef­forts of the Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails, ef­forts that are mak­ing it a top-notch field day ac­tiv­ity for lots of schools in the re­gion. “These peo­ple are or­ga­nized. They’re great with the kids, and they know what to do.”

The ac­tiv­i­ties are cross-coun­try ski­ing and snow­shoe­ing, and they’ve been of­fered for the last six years. And word has got­ten out – the last few years, over 1,000 kids have vis­ited, ac­cord­ing to Jean-Pierre Tibi, a mem­ber of the Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails board.

“We have 13 or 14 schools that come out each year, some come (twice in a sea­son),” he said.

But Tibi added that it’s ac­tu­ally been a tough year for the pro­gram, with nu­mer­ous post­pone­ments due to the thaw/freeze cy­cles that have been go­ing on over much of the win­ter.

The Sun­day af­ter­noon freez­ing rain made things dicey on a sun­splashed Mon­day for the school trip. It was only on Mon­day morn­ing when it was con­firmed that the trails could be groomed and prop­erly pre­pared in time. That was great news for Rox­more P.S. – “we had to can­cel two weeks ago (be­cause of weather),” Beaulieu said.

Give a lot of the credit on Mon­day to Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails mem­ber Vic Ler­oux, who was out with the groomer early in the morn­ing and was able to work his magic.

Tibi gives the credit for the school pro­gram to mem­ber Dr. Doug Boeckh – “he got the ini­tial grant (for pro­gram fund­ing) six years ago,” Tibi said.

The school pro­gram was ini­tially funded by an On­tario Min­istry of Sport and Health pro­mo­tion, a Healthy Com­mu­ni­ties Fund grant. Over the last few years, the Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails have run the pro­gram with in­creas­ing suc­cess and with­out any gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance.

De­spite the un­pre­dictable weather and con­di­tions in 2018, Jose­line Beaulieu, the school pro­gram man­ager, is thrilled with what’s been ac­com­plished.

“We’re a great team and the proof of that is word is get­ting out and more and more schools are vis­it­ing,” Beaulieu said.

“I think we owe our suc­cess to all the vol­un­teers who give it all they’ve got. . . we’re in the busi­ness of happy chil­dren.”

There were a lot of happy chil­dren last Fri­day, with three waves of kids from Wil­liamstown Pub­lic School vis­it­ing, 150 stu­dents in all.

“We had a lot of vol­un­teers out and it all went smoothly,” Beaulieu said. “But we’re al­ways look­ing for more vol­un­teers.”

The pro­gram is con­sid­ered a great in­tro­duc­tion for lo­cal school chil­dren to snow­shoe­ing and cross-coun­try ski­ing, and is pri­mar­ily geared for Grades 4, 5 and 6, al­though younger grades, high schools and even St. Lawrence Col­lege stu­dents have par­tic­i­pated.

A typ­i­cal snow­shoe out­ing in­volves a guided trip of three or four kilo­me­tres, and it’s not un­com­mon for some kids to catch glimpses of wildlife, in­clud­ing por­cu­pines, foxes and deer.

Chil­dren par­tic­i­pat­ing in a cross­coun­try ski out­ing re­ceive a short ori­en­ta­tion ses­sion be­fore head­ing out on their own or in small groups along the marked trails.

For Rox­more P.S. Grade 6 stu­dent Sada Bayn­ham, a morn­ing at the Sum­mer­stown For­est is some­thing to be looked for­ward to each win­ter.

“We come here ev­ery year with our school,” Bayn­ham said. “I’ve been com­ing here since Grade 3. . . this and swim­ming are the (two best school out­ings each year).”

There are about 20 kilo­me­tres of groomed cross-coun­try ski trails (clas­sic and skat­ing) in the Sum­mer­stown For­est, and nine kilo­me­tres of snow­shoe trails, on var­ied ter­rain.

The trails range from be­gin­ner to in­ter­me­di­ate in clas­si­fi­ca­tion.

The trail­head and park­ing lot are in South Glen­garry on County Road 27, 1.5 kilo­me­tres north of Sum­mer­stown Sta­tion.

Any­one in­ter­ested in vol­un­teer­ing to help de­liver the school kid pro­gram should con­tact Jose­line Beaulieu at holy­cat­fish@sym­pa­tico.ca.

TODD HAMBLETON/CORNWALL STAN­DARD-FREE­HOLDER

And they're off— Rox­more Pub­lic School kids snow­shoe­ing in the Sum­mer­stown For­est, be­ing led by Jose­line Beaulieu, the school pro­gram man­ager for the Friends of the Sum­mer­stown Trails.

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