Year of the Bridges
By John Fisher, President
Living in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it often feels like we are more disconnected from other people than we used to be. Though we did our best to stay connected during lockdown, using measures like our self-guided hikes, the club has still had to work hard since the easing of restrictions to reaffirm our ties to our community. For all of us, the last few years have been a time of rebuilding bridges. Bridges have always held importance to the GHTC and to hikers in the Guelph area. Our “Bridge to Bridge” hike is perhaps our most famous, and many of our guided hikes from before the pandemic would meet up at the Guelph Covered Bridge downtown. Building and maintaining bridges also happens to be a central part of the ongoing trail stewardship that the Guelph Hiking Trail Club undertakes. Primarily we install bridges to connect trails together, or to make trails easier to traverse in all four seasons. Many of the projects we are most proud of have been bridges, like the Cove Valley Bridge, the 10th anniversary of which we just celebrated this past June. Lately our club has been working with both the City of Guelph and other volunteer organizations to raise funds for bridges that can make recreational paths more accessible for everyone, the most recent being the Crane Park Bridge, where construction finished January of this year. Fundraising or constructing bridges has been one of the primary ways in which the GHTC has been able to reach out and forge connections in our community.
For this reason, we have decided to call 2023 the “Year of the Bridges,” an indication of our ongoing determination to strengthen ties within and without our club. Earlier this summer I was approached by Liam Waterman, now a volunteer for the GHTC, regarding the possibility of arranging a unique summer writing project for him. Liam is a student in English literature, currently in between his undergraduate and master’s study. We agreed that a comprehensive history of the most important “connections” on GHTC trails, meaning boardwalks and bridges, would be both a valuable resource for the club and a worthwhile way to commemorate the “Year of the Bridges.” We envision this history as a series of separate issues, each detailing the stories behind the construction and ongoing maintenance of one “connection.” We intend to run at least one issue with each installment of the monthly e-newsletter up until the end of the year. To kick off this initiative, we have included an issue on the five bridges in the Starkey Hill Loop (see link below), which were built through a collaboration between the Grand River Conservation Authority, volunteers from the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant in Cambridge, and the GHTC.
To motivate people to visit the various “connections” in our trail system, we are also planning to incorporate a “Year of the Bridges Passport Log,” which will be run through social media. We encourage all of you, if you visit one of our bridges, to take a picture and post it to your social media accounts with the hashtag #YearOfTheBridges. We will have a draw at the AGM for all of our “Great Connectors,” those who were successful in completing a visit to all of our bridges. In this way we hope that everyone in Guelph’s hiking community will be able to take part in making this year special. More details regarding the passport log will come in later updates. We hope that this project both informs you and leads you to a greater appreciation of the collaborative work that goes into making all of these bridges, or “connections,” happen.
Bridge Histories & Liam's Conclusion
Tributary C Bridge and Boardwalk