Tomifobia Nature Trail needs helping hand
Captivated by its nineteen kilometers of natural beauty and tranquility, gently following the Tomifobia River down from the village of Ayer’s Cliff to Stanstead, thousands upon thousands of walkers, runners, cyclists, hikers, snowshoers and skiers
use the Tomifobia Nature Trail, created along the former Massawippi Valley Railroad’s right-of-way, every year. Unfortunately, only between six and seven percent of those trail users are members of Sentiers Massawippi, the non-profit organization that manages and maintains the forty acre linear park using only the money received from membership fees, donations from members and others, as well as a few government and Foundation grants, and the free, volunteer labour of many of its dedicated members.
Under these circumstances and with all the recurring expenses associated with the upkeep of a large, well-used park which is free and open to the general public, keeping the Tomifobia Trail in tip-top shape has been an annual challenge since it first opened to the public in the 1990’s. However, that challenge has never been as great as it is now, following a major washout that occurred near the southern end of the trail at kilometer 16 in early April.
“It is the biggest washout that I know of on the trail. The damage is about seven meters deep and ninety meters wide,” explained the president of Sentiers Massawippi, Ray Banham, in an interview with the Stanstead Journal. “It seems to have been caused by a combination of things: bad weather, a frozen culvert, cold weather then suddenly warm. And this is now a problem area because there has been a lot of development and lots of trees cut near here. The embankment was also not proper, built of sand rather than rocks,” added Mr. Banham, referring to the former railway bed.
It was Saturday morning and Mr. Banham, a part-time Ayer’s Cliff resident of over forty years whose principal residence is in the Montreal area, was heading to the ‘disaster zone’ to take a few sightings, erect a new sign, check the barriers and cut a few leaning trees to further block the trail. Those were just a few of the dozens of maintenance tasks that appeared on the Trail Report presented in May, most of which will be done by a handful of member volunteers. One humorous entry in the report read: at kilometer 6.5 “Beavers at work”!
When we arrived at our destination, the huge, gaping hole in the earth where the trail once passed was a striking reminder of the power of nature. Many of the trees that hadn’t washed away along with the land were either bent or snapped, ringing the crater-like area. The devastation had not taken long, occurring over the Easter weekend.
“The estimated cost of the repair is a minimum of $30,000 but could be $50,000 or higher. We’ll need to have a culvert put in, fill the hole in and grade it down and up again. It might take three hundred to five hundred truckloads at first. Other repair jobs will just have to wait.”
Despite all the extra work cut out for Mr. Banham, his fellow Sentiers Massawippi board members and the active club members with this recent misfortune, the president seemed
undaunted. “Some of our volunteers helped me plant about sixty trees along the trail, last year, which were donated by Hollande Gardens, and we have about a hundred more to plant this year. COGESAF has even asked us to plant Alder trees; they said that was the kind that the Wood Turtles liked.”
With extreme weather conditions on the rise and, especially after this latest damage to the well- used trail, the organization could really use more members for two main reasons: to help defray costs with their annual membership fees ($30 for individuals and $40 for families), and to help with occasion- al volunteer work along the trail, if they are interested and available. Members can vote and help decide the future of the trail at the General Meeting and will receive regular newsletters. Membership forms can be found on the trail’s website at www.sentiernaturetomifobia.com and in the brochures left in the trail kiosks. Donations to help repair the trail can also be sent to Sentier Nature Tomifobia, C.P. 1502, Ayer’s Cliff, J0B 1C0.
The Le Tomifobia restaurant, located in the Beebe sector of Stanstead, is hosting a brunch to raise funds to help with the trail repair on June 14th, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, reservations required.
The portion of the Tomifobia Nature Trail where the washout occurred is closed for obvious safety reasons, however, people can still use the trail by taking a marked detour on the local roads.
The biggest washout in the history of the Tomifobia Trail, seen here behind Sentiers Massawippi president Ray Banham, is now a major challenge for the Trail’s volunteers to meet.
Ray Banham hammers in a sign at the washout site following a request from a neighbouring landowner, just one of the hundreds of small tasks that volunteers need to do throughout the year.