During a winter when most people have been spending more time at home than usual, a forest on the edge of L’Orignal has become an extremely popular place for walking.
According to André Roy, a L’Orignal resident who is one of two ward councillors for L’Orignal as part of Champlain Township council, an unknown number of volunteers have been maintaining a walking trail through the woods on the southeastern edge of the village for many years, and the length of the various trail loops now numbers at least five kilometres. He said that the trails have been popular with village residents for a long time, but with COVID-19 restrictions changing people’s travel and recreation habits this winter, visitors from Hawkesbury are also using the paths.
The trails are located entirely on private property. Volunteers go over the routes with a snowmobile or all-terrain vehicle (ATV) towing an attachment that flattens the snow to make walking easy. However, other than for maintenance, snowmobiles and other off-road vehicles are not permitted on the trails. Unfortunately, there have been some problems this winter with those vehicles using the trails.
“I think the volunteers are doing an amazing job,” said Roy.
The trails are meant mostly for the recreation of L’Orignal residents. Roy said that it is not intended to become a local attraction. There is no specific parking area for the trails, which can be accessed from residential areas on Aimé, Eliza, and Pilon streets.
Walking on the wooded trails is part of the average day for many L’Orignal residents. Roy and his partner Marie Latremouille use it daily. There is a social feeling on the trails. Everyone says hello to each other, neighbours stop to have properly distanced conversations after months of not being able to visit in each other’s homes. Dog owners must clean up after their pets, and the clean snow along the trails indicates that they are following that rule.
No funding comes from Champlain Township or any other organization for these trails in L’Orignal. Any money spent on maintenance comes from the pockets of the volunteers. The property owners who gave their permission to have the trails on their land did so with the expectation that visitors respect the site.
Roy said that the community has a sense of ownership and responsibility over the trails because they are maintained by volunteers for residents of L’Orignal to use with respect.