Trail Volunteer Champions

Old Nipissing Ghost Road

Across the Discovery Routes region there are at least 56 separate community trail partners responsible for the stewardship of local trails – many of these groups rely entirely on volunteers who donate their time, energy and talents to our trails.

Trail Champion: Scott Taylor

Man on snowmobile with grooming equipment for cross-counrty ski trails pulled behind

Why do you volunteer?

“On the right day to come here after a fresh snowfall and go out and groom at 8 in the morning on a sunny morning… it’s just really nice. Now that’s on a good day. There are days that are fun but also days that are not. Some days grooming can be really frustrating like when the surface gets icy or it is really soft. Or, when you get the call that a beaver dam has let go and the parking lot is under a foot of water – AGAIN!”

Like all well-stewarded trail systems, volunteering at Wasi Cross Country Ski Club is a team effort. Everyone has their role. Scott Taylor is one of nine on the grooming team, up before the sun on frigid February mornings to get the cross-country ski trails track-set for the day. Grooming is Scott’s favourite part of the ‘job’.

“On the right day to come here after a fresh snowfall and go out and groom at 8 in the morning on a sunny morning… it’s just really nice. Now that’s on a good day. There are days that are fun but also days that are not. Some days grooming can be really frustrating like when the surface gets icy or it is really soft. Or, when you get the call that a beaver dam has let go and the parking lot is under a foot of water – AGAIN!”
Grooming the ski trails is only part of the volunteer work Scott has done for the club. While not the lead on certain projects, Scott has lent a hand to: build and renovate the chalet and warm-up shack; build, insulate and heat the garage for the grooming equipment; participate in annual trail work like brushing in the fall; and, improve the base and drainage of the trails through a couple major projects. The work is never done on the trails. New volunteers are always needed and welcome as long-time volunteers move on to other things.

Trail Champion: Tom Cook

Why do you volunteer?

“In the spring and fall I flag the snowshoe trail. And then after the first substantial snowfall, I usually get my wife and a friend and the three of us go out again and track the trail in so that it’s established. At different confusion spots, we’ll grab deadfall and make a barrier. We exhaust ourselves because as you know, when you’re walking through a couple of feet of snow, you get pretty tired. But it is still a labour of love. We have fun at it.”

Volunteering is in Tom’s blood, born into a family where both parents were active in the community. “It was just what was done at home.”  Tom got involved with North Bay Nordic Ski Club when it was a fledgling club in the late 70’s. 50 years later… yes… 50 YEARS LATER Tom still calls it a hobby! Tom had an alpine skiing background and hated cross-country because the equipment wasn’t the best. “It was just too much work.” Tom talks about how they fashioned their own skis back then using downhill skis with the edges torn off and steamed over the bathtub to get the proper curvature.

The snowshoe trails at the club came about from a Rotary Club of North Bay fundraiser for children with disabilities – Kilometers for Kids. A few ski club members who were also Rotarians thought a ski or snowshoe aspect might encourage more people to get involved. Only, there were no snowshoe trails at the time. So, Rotarians Don Wheeler and Dave Chamberlain laid out the initial 3 km of snowshoe trail. From there the trails grew. As time passed, Tom took the lead on the snowshoe trails at the mercy of mother nature and battling with the beavers. Every few years, Tom would go out in the fall and a beaver dam would have given way and carried one of the small footbridges downstream. Trail building and maintenance is a lot of trial and error. Tom seeks help from members of the club “who are, you know, MacGyvers. They can figure it out. They go in armed to the teeth with different tools and different pulleys and jacks and all that kind of stuff. And when they get in there, they say, okay, well, this is what we need to do.” 

Every spring and fall, Tom gets out to flag the snowshoe trail. After the first substantial snowfall of the season, he conscripts his wife and a friend and the three of them go out again and re-establish the trail. At different confusion spots, they grab deadfall and make a barrier. “We exhaust ourselves because as you know, when you’re walking through a couple of feet of snow, you get pretty tired. But it is still a labour of love. We have fun at it.”

Trail Champion: Rick Jeffery

Man with clippers clearing branches from a fallen tree on w winter snowshoe trailWhy do you volunteer?

“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors and its nice to have places to get out and and see the surroundings. After working all the years I did in Toronto coming back up here to live [South River area] it was something I wanted my kids to appreciate.”

 

Rick is a longtime volunteer with the Forgotten Trails Association in the area around South River, one of few volunteers still involved until recently. In fact, the Forgotten Trails have faced many of the same challenges typical of volunteer trail organizations – volunteer burnout, frustration over the inability to restrict off-road vehicle access to environmentally sensitive areas and escalating insurance costs.

By 2019, many of the once thriving trails had become overgrown and once again forgotten in time – almost. Rick, steadfast in his desire to keep the trail network available for others to enjoy, never leaves home without his clippers. As appointed trail steward of the Laurier Tower Trail, Rick continues to hike the trail a few times a year in every season equipped with his clippers and ready to trim back brush and undergrowth that grows up along the trail.

The Forgotten Trails have a new burst of energy and enthusiasm. Participation in outdoor activities is at an all-time high and a new generation of caring people have relocated to the area to escape the city. Holding firm to the original mission to create, maintain and promote non-motorized, ecologically sustainable trails, a small and growing group of volunteers are working to revitalize the organization and its beloved hiking trails. Find Forgotten Trails on Facebook as the organization grows again. Rick is ready with his enthusiasm and of course, his clippers!

Trail Champion: Connie Hergott

Woman with clippers trimming brush from around a trans canada trail sign

Why do you volunteer?

I want to create a risk-free point of entry for women in the sport of mountain biking and I think I’ve accomplished that through the North Bay Mountain Bike Association and other cycling advocacy work.” 

The formidable Connie Hergott – Trail Champion Extraordinaire keeps herself busy. Say the word bike and Connie is there. Here is a peek at Connie’s Trail Champion To Do/ Done-it List:

  • Be a founding member of the North Bay Mountain Bike Association; 
  • Create a risk-free point of entry for women in the sport of mountain biking; 
  • Inspire women to challenge themselves as a LIV Ambassador;
  • Organize the Ride for Jack a charity fat bike ride supporting autism programs; 
  • Bring joy of riding to kids through bike festivals and youth skills development; 
  • Bring joy of reading to kids on the trail through story walks on Kate Pace Way and Laurentian Escarpment trails;
  • Advocate for safe and inclusive cycling as a CanBike Instructor; 
  • Take elderly folk on the tri-shaw bike so they can feel the wind in their hair with Cycling Without Age;
  • Help cyclists find their way along the Old Nipissing Ghost Road by installing Trans Canada Trail signs.

Connie has a contagious enthusiasm for cycling. Her only weakness – she can’t say NO

Trail Champion: Stephen Todoroff

Man walking on snow covered trailWhy do you volunteer?

“I was a longtime teacher at Almaguin Secondary School, coached many sports and saw a need for kids to have activities school and outside school. When the new school was built there was an opportunity with the land that was available to develop a trail system so Al Bottomly and I put our minds together and said okay lets get this done…” 

Stephen Todoroff is a true champion of trails as one of the masterminds behind the Almaguin Community Trails at the site of Almaguin Secondary School. As a now retired teacher at the high school, Steve recognized the importance of outdoor activities to the social and physical development of his young students, especially throughout Almaguin’s rural communities where opportunities for organized sport are limited. 

In 2012, when the school board had committed to building a new school, the community spoke up for a trail system that could be used by the school to host competitive cross-country ski races but also be open to the public for skiing and snowshoeing, hiking and mountain biking. Despite many barriers in the early days, Steve together with a small team of volunteers never gave up and slowly the school administration began to understand the value of the trails to the students and the community. With Discovery Routes signing a land use agreement with the school board and providing liability protection for volunteers, the group was away to the races! 

The network has grown to 8 km of groomed trails. Community support is outstanding with donations of equipment and materials, and, of course, people power. “Volunteers show up and want to help because they are doing it for their kids,” says Steve. Steve and his grooming partner, Tim Butson are never far from the trail in any season. They are both proud of the fact that a young athlete, Trevor Kiers on the Canadian Biathlon Team, got his start on the Amaguin Community Ski Trails. In 2024, the trails hosted World Cup qualifying dog sled races on a trail system that exists thanks to the perseverance of Trail Champions like Steve.

Trail Champions: ReCycle Bikes Mechanics

volunteer bike mechanicsWhy do you volunteer for ReCycle Bikes?

“I like using some of my skills to give back to the community and give back to people who need a bike or need a bike repaired. I think cycling is a very important part of having a good life and that everyone should have that opportunity,” Paul Davis, long-time volunteer bike mechanic.

“I grew up on two wheels and to be able to give other people that opportunity is worth it, that alone is enough compensation for me,” Lance Belanger, volunteer since 2015

The ReCycle Bikes crew are a welcoming community of enthusiastic like-minded volunteers who LOVE bikes! Most of these folks return year-after-year building their own bike repair skills and making a difference in the community by giving others the opportunity to own a bike. As of 2023, over 1700 volunteer hours have gone into the program.

Trail Champion: Gerry Giesler

Why do you volunteer? Two volunteers at lookout“I’ve always been an outdoors person and like doing outdoor stuff. What it boils down to is I like sharing my knowledge and making sure other people can get to enjoy the outdoors too.”
Long-time Powassan trail champion, Gerry Giesler has devoted over 16 years of service to the trails community. Gerry was instrumental in improving paddling access to the South River Water Trail successfully getting portage trails around a number of hydro dams between Trout Creek and Powassan. Volunteering with the Powassan Recreation Committee, Gerry has been involved in The Pines trail network, and is excited to see years of planning take shape in a new trail and water access at Love Lake in Trout Creek in 2023.

Trail Volunteer Appreciation Program

Discovery Routes Trail Champion Program recognizes the contributions of countless trail volunteers across the Near North.  The program brings attention to the volunteers who devote endless hours to serve on committees, champion important trail issues and causes, maintain and manage local trails and coordinate trail events and programs that further the positive growth and development of the region’s trail network. Our goal with the program is to recognize this diverse community of volunteers and inspire more individuals to get involved in their local trails community.

Find out how you can Get Involved in our thriving trails community.

The vast network of trails we celebrate exist on the traditional lands and waterways of the Anishinaabe people within the territory protected by the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 and Williams Treaties of 1923.