Thanks, Leon

Dear Mike:
The Eighth Street trails are in the best condition they have ever been in since they were first carved out of the bush north of Rainycrest in 1967-68.
Over the years, many volunteers have worked to improve them so that people of all ages could walk somewhere in the winter out of the wind.
Two generations of school children have been lucky enough to learn about nature from these corridors into the bush. Best of all, they have had the fun of cooking wieners and marshmallows over open fires.
In recent years, the trails have been widened and packed down by volunteers. One person stands out above all the others—and that person is Leon Wells.
He began years ago grooming the ski trails. Realizing that many elderly people were using the walking trails, he began grooming the paths as well as the ski trails.
Within hours after every snowfall, the grooming was done. Of course, difficulties arose whenever snow drifted across open areas, forming hard drifts. The groomer could never flatten them enough.
One of the main problems occurred in those years when the snow didn’t come. Try levelling out frozen ground in winter with light machinery.
Some people complained when the trails weren’t in good condition. So Leon invited them to come out and help, but they never did.
Last summer, Leon seemed to make it his mission to construct deluxe trails. He bought a brush mower to tow behind his ATV. With this equipment, he flattened the muskeg, cutting down the humps.
But harder work lay ahead. The high winds broke off poplar trees which had been weakened by two years of tent caterpillars stripping their leaves off. As such, Leon and Bob Holmes spent many days cutting the trees which criss-crossed the trails.
Because both these volunteers spent much of the fall working, the trails probably are as good as any in Northwestern Ontario.
For those who have never skied or walked these trails and would like to try them, you will find the trail head on Eighth Street just north of Rainycrest Home for the Aged.
The six km of walking trails and eight km of ski trails wind in a series of loops through low land consisting of willows and poplars. Further north, they enter a black spruce bog.
For those who enjoy nature, there is a chance that you might see woodpeckers (including a pileated), nuthatches, chickadees, sharp-tailed grouse, owls, red-backed voles, deer, and occasionally pine marten and lynx.
Last Saturday, I wandered through the trails which Leon had groomed in spite of the severe weather. As I walked along the hard-packed paths, I thought to myself, “Thanks, Leon, for your contribution to our community.”
Henry Miller
Fort Frances, Ont.