GUELPH TRAIL CLUB1970-1975
by Dave Hull
Prior to 1970 many people had strolled along the abandoned rail bed of the Radial Line electric railway that ran from Guelph to Toronto. In fact, the Rotary Club of Guelph, through the instigation of Phil Gosling of Bruce Trail fame, had blazed a trail on part of it and had searched the land titles from Guelph eastward to Crewson Corners.
However, it was Jill Leslie in early 1970 who decided that a formal trail should be established towards the east from Guelph on the rail bed to join up with the Bruce Trail south-east of Action and to that end wrote to the president of the Bruce Trail Association seeking his advice and help.
Tom East referred Jill to Phil Gosling who suggested that she contact the Caledon Hills Bruce Trail Club. At this Club's annual meeting May 20, 1970, Jill presented the idea of a branch of the Bruce Trail to run between Guelph and Acton. As the Acton section of the Bruce Trail came under the jurisdiction of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, the proposal was passed on to the executive of the Toronto Club.
Meanwhile, Jill called a meeting in Guelph of local residents belonging to the Bruce trail Association; the following people came to the initial meeting on September 29: Jill Leslie, Marshal Matson, Lorn Fischer, Gertrude Speers, Esme and Jim Hunt, Kathleen Brown, Catherine Kopf, Jim Pierce and Sheila Washburn.
Over the next year, four meetings were held to discuss progress in obtaining landowners' consent, building stiles and blazing the trail. By the fall of 1971, with the help of some members of the Toronto Bruce Trail Club, and under the direction of "president" Jim Pierce, the now-named Radial Trail Club had almost completed the trail to Limehouse.
At a meeting in December, Phil Gosling encouraged the group to form a non-affiliated club; the members present (6) elected Florence Partridge chairman, Kathleen Brown vice-chairman and Esme Hunt, secretary-treasurer--and they took on a new name, the "Guelph Trail Club".
At the first meeting in 1972, Florence presented a tentative constitution and a preliminary budget of $100.00 to finish the Trail and publish the handbook. The membership fee was set at $2.00 which included a handbook.
In June, 1972, Jill Leslie agreed to head up a study for a trail between Guelph and Preston, and Phyllis Oughton agreed to investigate a side trail to Rockwood (a project which was eventually dropped because of the number of small-holdings that a trail would cross in this area). Through out the fall of 1972 and spring of 1973, work parties under the guidance of Jill and Mike Zerner blazed their way to Preston, so that on May 27, 1973 the Speed River Trail was officially opened by Mayor Norm Jary and Gord Chaplin, a Cambridge alderman. 1973 also saw the Club's first end-to-end hike.
By the end of 1972, the membership of the Club had grown to about 200 members.
The first annual family picnic was held in 1974, as was the inaugural hike on the Arkell Springs Trail. This trail blazing was co-ordinated by Bob Fanning. On Ontario Hiking Day, April 27, 1975 over 200 people hiked the completed Arkell-Starkey Trail after it was officially opened by Frank Maine, Ted Heeg and Norm Jary. The Trail Club had arrived!
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