Tomi­fo­bia Na­ture Trail needs help­ing hand

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier

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.sen­tier­na­ture­tomi­fo­ 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.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

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.

Photo Vic­to­ria Vanier

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.

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