Friday, October 24, 2014

Eighth St. trails natural treasure

A concept that blossomed from the desire to teach younger generations about the joys of their surrounding environment now is nearing the end of its second generation of existence.
The Eighth Street trails, which begin just east of Hammond’s Nursery, have been around since the late 1960s—the brainchild of retired teacher and former Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club president Henry Miller.

“I took the kids from my classes out there wanting to expose them to the beauty of nature,” recalled Miller, who believed a trail system through the wooded area would foster more appreciation for local wildlife and plant life within the community.
The simple snowshoeing pathways started by Miller evolved to the point where fellow teacher and passionate sportsman Struchan Gilson helped create cross-country ski trails that were put in place, with groomed trails that were wider for those travelling through.
“That made it a lot easier to take the kids out walking,” noted Miller.
Today, the trail mostly is maintained by volunteer Dave Chepil.
“I do the grooming of the trails and I take down the hazard trees so they don’t come down on the trails,” he explained.
“If you don’t clear the alder trees that fall out of the way, it can close the trail off.”
Community Services manager Jason Kabel has no shortage of gratitude for those taking the time to look after the trails.
“We’re very fortunate for all the work they do up there,” he lauded.
“They go over and above what one should expect from volunteers,” Kabel added.
“We’re truly thankful for their efforts.
“Fort Frances is truly fortunate to have trails like these so close to town,” said Kabel. “People in many other communities have to go somewhere else to get that amenity.
“It’s such a great outdoor resource.”
“You’ve got this kind of beauty five minutes from your door,” echoed local resident Elaine Fischer, who works for the Northwestern Health Unit.
“Where else can you live to have that?
“I’ve lived here 16 years and I’ve probably been going on these trails for 15,” she added.
“The trails cater to all activity and physical conditioning levels,” said Fischer.
“I encourage people of all ages to get out and be active out there, and I do that from a personal and professional perspective.”
Bob Holmes, who volunteered for years to help maintain the Eighth Street trails, said he most enjoys the basic pleasures of the area.
“I just like walking around there and I still take my dog for walks there all the time,” noted Holmes, who at 79 still manages to help out with cutting brush the odd time in the fall.
“People come from all over to these trails, including a lot from the U.S.,” he added.
“I met one American lady who was taking pictures of as many different wildflowers as she could find.”
Chepil, meanwhile, hopes more people will step up to volunteer to help with maintaining the stretch of trails to lessen the burden on himself.
He also wants those using the trail to keep in mind some important hints that will benefit everybody.
“People with dogs need to clean up after their dogs out there,” he stressed.
“It’s been a problem there for a while.
“Also, if people see the groomer coming, it would be nice if they could just get off the trail enough so I can get by,” Chepil added.
“If they just stand on the trail and if I have to stop, I’ll probably get stuck.
“I’m just asking if they could move a foot off the trail,” he remarked.
“It’s a four-foot wide trail and I’ve got a four-foot wide groomer.”

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