Wellington Plaza River Trail remake in progress

The Guelph Hiking Trail Club is taking the initiative to improve the underserved river trail behind the commercial plazas on the corner of Wellington Street and Gordon Street. A section of hiking trail south of downtown Guelph is getting a remake thanks to the Federal Economic Development Agency’s funding commitment for “placemaking” projects across Southern Ontario.

My Main Street Funding Announcement

Artist impressions of planned design & one of several work parties!


Facelift underway for underserved section of Guelph trail

Community collaboration key in project connecting trails to Guelph's downtown

Jessica Lovell

Guelph Mercury

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Behind the commercial plazas at the corner of Wellington and Gordon streets lies a small section of Guelph’s Speed River where officially there is no trail, but the Guelph Hiking Trail Club is working to change that.

“We’re trying to open it up. We’re trying to make it look really welcoming there,” said club president John Fisher.

While the “trail” doesn’t show up on a map of trails, it is possible for pedestrians and cyclists to make their way from the covered bridge by the Boathouse to the city’s Downtown Trail — which starts at Wyndham Street and runs between the river and Wellington Street — without leaving the riverside and heading out to the busy streets.

But the pathway is not ideal. In some places, cars park too close to the brush that borders the river for there to be a comfortable passage for cyclists. In other places, the pathway skirts past the commercial garbage bins of the street-facing businesses, and the pathway itself is uneven, the pavement having been pushed up at irregular intervals by the roots of the trees growing along the river.

But these same trees make this path a pleasantly shady alternative to the sidewalk in front of the plaza.

It’s also quite simply the shorter distance between two existing sections of trail.

The club, a charitable organization that promotes hiking and encourages awareness of the natural environment, is not generally responsible for maintaining trails within the city, but it has an interest in linking the urban trails to the rural ones, and improving connectivity within the network, Fisher said.

The club took an interest in the trail and for My Main Street funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario last fall to make improvements to the trail.

“We basically got the money at Christmas when you can do nothing with it,” laughed Fisher.

But the $24,000 grant is being put to work now in a project that Fisher says involves many participants working together to make the area better for the whole community.

In fact, even before the grant was received, the club had connected with the property owner to get permission to paint out graffiti on the back of one of the buildings, Fisher said.

The club is also working with the city, the Guelph Community Health Centre, business owners, and more on the project.

Among the work that has already been done, the club got permission from the owner of Angel’s Diner to paint two storage trailers in rainbow colours, and the city has delivered planters, and planted them with perennials. Some work has also been done to remove invasive buckthorn from the area.

The city has also agreed to move a chain-link fence behind the veterinary hospital in order to widen the path.

The city’s general manager of parks, Gene Matthews, called the project “a great tangible example” of the kind of community-led, city-supported project called for in the Guelph Trail Master Plan.

“In collaborating with the Guelph Hiking Trail Club on this project, we are hoping that residents will see improvements to an existing and well-used trail,” Matthews said in an email to the Mercury Tribune.

Fisher said future work will include installing benches, and planting trees or shrubs to act as a visual barrier to dumpsters.

The club is also hoping to install a mural, produced by local arts organization Art Not Shame, on one of the walls facing the trail.

The hope is also to resurface the trail, so it is less bumpy for bikes and strollers.

“Our approach is let’s do what we can do,” said Fisher.

Much of the work is being completed by volunteers, so if people are interested in helping out, they are encouraged to visit www.guelphhiking.com to volunteer.

When it’s complete, the hope is that “people will feel good and will be delighted about walking along this stretch of the Speed River,” Fisher said.

Wellington Plaza River Trail Progress

"Art in Hard Times" finds new home on Wellington Plaza River Trail. Thanks to GHTC member Jim Hoare and President John Fisher for the install and to "Art not Shame", plaza property owner, and the Federal Govt My Main Street funding for making this possible.

The lead artist was Melanie Schambach whose forte is art-based community building. A digital paint by numbers participatory process that involved dozens of people in its creation.

Visit https://artnotshame.org/2020muralprocess for a greater understanding of the themes and the process which is particularly suited to be displayed on this trail. GHTC and its partners are working to improve this trail by creating a "Welcoming Space for All."



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