Along the shoreline of Lake Huron, just north of the Municipality of Kincardine, lies nearly one hundred acres of natural beauty—the Stoney Island Conservation Area. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy 8 kilometres of all-season trails for hiking, cycling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. However, most of the visitors to this pristine setting are not aware of the volunteer efforts of a local group of proactive citizens who work together to preserve the diversity of plant and animal life near its creeks, meadows, and woodlands, attracting field naturalists from near and far.
Originally purchased in 1973, the Stoney Island Conservation Area, ensures public access to Lake Huron. When the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) contemplated selling it due to a budget squeeze in 1990s, the Kincardine Cross Country Ski Club was worried. Generations of its members had skied the trails since its founding, and a core group from the club approached the SVCA and offered to maintain the property. When their bold proposal was accepted, the Kincardine Cross Country Ski Club took up the stewardship of this important area.
The Canada 150 Trail
Collectively averaging 400 hours of work each year, the dedicated volunteers worked tirelessly. They removed fallen trees and branches, mowed meadows, built and repaired handcrafted bridges, improved drainage in wet areas, and upgraded the trails. In the winter, the club members groomed ski trails and cleared drifts after snowstorms. In 2017, the group took a new challenge. To honour the country’s sesquicentennial year, they designed a multi-use trail with a manageable length and flat terrain, accessible to youth and seniors, which they called the Canada 150 Trail.
Passion for a place
In January 2018, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario joined local community members and over 100 schoolchildren for the official opening of this Canada 150 Trail. The efforts of the local ski club to preserve the natural beauty in their backyard, created an opportunity for the whole community to connect with their environment, no matter what the season. The vision of the volunteers to connect their local efforts to a nation-wide celebration, allowed the next generation to understand its place in Ontario and Canada. Looking ahead, they are hopeful that younger generations will share their passion for this special place and will become stewards of its future.
Often the starting point for a community to understand what sustainability really means is to care for the environment in which they live. Environmental stewardship is one pillar of sustainability. When we nurture a love of nature in youth and encourage them to see themselves as stewards of their communities, we are building a path to a more resilient future.
That is where this story began. When I had the pleasure of opening of this Canada 150 Trail, I was inspired by work of the volunteers who, after years of conservation and stewardship, had created a place for people of all ages to come together and connect with their environment. How wonderful it was to see the delight on the faces of so many young people as they skied across the new trail – one built for them. It became obvious to all that this project was also about building social cohesion – a second pillar of sustainability.
Sustainability starts at home with our families and neighbours. We all have a role to play, and it is clear that the members of the Kincardine Cross-Country Ski Club understand that. I have no doubt that the next step will be to focus on opportunities for inclusive economic prosperity – the important third element of sustainability.Sustainability