In Ontario’s Beaver Valley, there’s more than one way to get the boot along the Bruce Trail.
Dozens of people gathered on May 27 Southern Ontario’s Kolapore Uplands in The Blue Mountains to celebrate the opening of a new footbridge on the Bruce Trail.
The 120-foot bridge was the result of an unusual collaboration between the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club and the Canadian Armed Forces, club spokesperson William Overton explained.
“The Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club first got in contact with 32 Combat Engineer Regiment in November, 2009,” Overton said. “In the beginning we thought we were going to be talking with some retired military engineers who might give us some technical advice about how to re-build our 25-year-old bridge which was starting to be in sad shape.”
“The 120-foot bridge had been built on six rock-filled gabion baskets,” he continued. “Over time, and many Spring floods, the gabion baskets had sunk gradually and unevenly into the floodplain or had been undercut by the rushing waters of the Mill Creek. As the baskets shifted so did the bridge leaving a bridge tilted and sagging.”
The discussion continued back and forth between the army engineers and the hiking club, and it wasn’t until a group of soldiers turned up on the trail in the spring of 2010 that Overton and his colleagues realized they were being conscripted.
“We realized that we were dealing with a unit of the Canadian Army composed of both regular and reserve troops,” Overton said. “They needed a training project for their engineering troops and we needed an old bridge re-built. It was a win-win situation.
Work began in the fall of 2011, and continued for eight days until the bridge was completed.
That was an eight-day labour, including hauling the material into the site, which is a little more than 1.5 kilometres from the nearest road. The soldiers even set up a zipline early on to help ferry the materials down to Mill Creek from the ridge where they were camping.
“Word went out about the job these men were doing for the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail Club and people came to watch them,” Overton said. “While the troops of 32 CER did most of the heavy lifting, numerous Bruce Trail volunteers worked on the project as well. And without the generous co-operation of the Stuart family, on whose land the bridge stands, and the Richardson family, over whose land the materials were brought to the building site, the job could never have been completed.”
A grant provided by the Toronto-Dominon Bank’s Friends of the Environment Foundation, in the amount of $3800, paid for the project.
For their efforts, the regiments was awarded the Keith Solomon Boot. Solomon was a renowned hiker from nearby Meaford who died in 1980 while attempting to climb the tallest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. His left boot has become a symbol awarded to anyone who has provided exemplary service to the Bruce Trail by the Beaver Valley Club.
“Getting the boot in the Beaver Valley has a bit of a different meaning,” Overton quipped.