Parking lot construction begins for Summerstown Trails
BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL
Staff The first phase of the construction of a new parking lot at the trailhead of the Summerstown Trails Forest site is underway.
According to the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, owners of the land on which the trails are located, once the total overhaul of the parking lot is completed next summer, the new space, which will be able to accommodate 44 vehicles, “will be larger, safer and more inviting for all forest users anytime of the year.”
The initial phase of the initiative – the clearing and preparation of the land on the north side of the existing County Road 27 entrance which has been designated as the spot for the new lot – began in mid-August.
This preparatory work is being financed through the fundraising efforts of the Friends of the Summerstown Trails (FOTST), the volunteer organization that maintains nearly 40 km of the cross-country and snowshoe trails in the Summerstown Forest.
The total cost of the new parking lot is just over $66,000 – half of which is being financed by a
grant received after the FOTST and the Township of South Glengarry filed a joint application, through FedDev Ontario, in the spring of 2015.
Additional costs of approximately $22,000 are being shared by the United Counties and South Glengarry township.
Some ‘in-kind’ work, courtesy of local volunteers, is also being contributed to the project.
And while Trails and Forest stakeholders are hoping the new parking lot will help to attract additional visitors as well as provide better amenities for those who frequent the Trails, they are also optimistic that it will help curb delinquent activity which has taken place in the old parking lot – due in part to its secluded location – for a number of years.
During a presentation to South Glengarry council in December 2013, FOTST president Martin Bowman addressed the need for a new parking facility, pointing out that the current lot is about two kilometres from the highway and obscured by a thicket of trees, providing sufficient cover for inappropriate and/or illegal behaviour to take place – such as the dumping of animal carcasses, construction material and household trash; and damage to the trails caused by the illegal entry of ATVs and large 4X4 vehicles.
“Some of the things that I’ve seen there, and some of the things that I’ve heard about over the years...well, the list is a bit shocking,” Mr. Bowman said at the time.
Those sentiments were echoed recently by Vic Leroux, FOTST vicepresident.
“The parking lot, in its current location, is an open invitation to those who want to conduct unlawful activities away from the public eye,” said Mr. Leroux, who is also the South Glengarry fire chief.
“The new parking lot will provide a safer environment for visitors, and is seen by the FOTST as the next step in improving the Summerstown Forest experience.”
Technical and environmental support for the parking lot construction project is being provided by key partners such as the Raisin Region Conservation and South Nation Conservation authorities, and the provincial Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
The Summerstown Trails system attracts more than 4,000 visitors annually and is used for a variety of activities year-round, such as biking, hiking, running, bird-watching, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.