A small group of dedicated volunteers are hoping to bring groomed trails to Kemptville this winter. The Kemptville Winter Trail group (KEWI) was created by four volunteers who met through trail-focused volunteer work in the community. Sarah Herring, Matthew Loguisto, Dustin Hall, and Paul Sharpe were all involved in varying capacities with groups like the Friends of the Ferguson Forest Centre, or the municipality’s Active Transportation Committee. “That’s what brought the four of us together,” Sarah says. “We looked at how successful this winter trail idea had been in Ottawa, and we just thought it would be a great thing to be able to have here in Kemptville.”
KEWI is now a local non-profit, with the goal of providing free-access groomed winter trails for cross county skiing, snowshoeing, winter fat biking, and hiking throughout Kemptville. As this year is their first, they are focused on creating a 5km groomed trail in the Ferguson Forest Centre’s Arboretum and select nursery roadways. In future years, KEWI hopes to be able to include groomed trails along the Waterfront Trail and in Riverside Park and the Kemptville Campus.
The difference between the trails that KEWI is looking to establish and those that are already available in the Ferguson Forest Centre, is that they will be specifically groomed and maintained for winter activities. An avid cross-country skier, Sarah says there is a big difference between skiing on an unmaintained trail and one that has a dedicated track. “If you’re a cross-country skier, the difference is night and day between having to break a trail, or having a trail that’s made for you,” she says. “It’s just a pure joy to ski on a groomed trail.”
The Group is currently focused on fundraising to purchase a grooming machine, which is pulled behind a snowmobile to create the trail. Although the Ferguson Forest Centre and eQuinelle have already made generous donations to support the cause, they still have fundraising to do so that they can purchase the $4,000-$6,000 machine. They are also looking for volunteers who own snowmobiles to help them groom and maintain the trail this winter. “We’re pretty confident that there are some community heroes whose generosity with their time and their sleds can help make this a reality this season,” Sarah says. “Even if just three or four weekends of groomed trails is all that’s possible, that would be great.”
The goal is to have the groomed trail ready for use by the beginning of January. Although this year is a bit of a trial run, Sarah says they have lots of plans for making the trails an asset to the North Grenville community. Paul, who has experience with cross country ski clubs, would love to start a learn-to-ski program for children and adults in the community, and the group is also thinking of including bird feeders, fire pits, and rest stations along the trails. “There’s a number of things you can pull into this to make it an all the more vibrant experience for trail users,” Sarah says. “That’s one of the things we’re hoping to look at. But, for now, we are firmly focused on getting out of the gate this year and just providing the community with a great way to get outside and enjoy the winter.”
According to Sarah, Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan has been a solid supporter of KEWI’s efforts all through the development of the initiative, and they recently met with Mayor Peckford, who has also been very enthusiastic. That being said, Sarah is adamant that the success of the initiative will largely depend on the help of the North Grenville community. “It really will be a community driven endeavour, and it’s the level of community involvement that’s really going to make it a success.”
For more information, follow Kemptville Winter Trail on Facebook. If you would like to volunteer or get involved, you can email [email protected]. To make a donation, visit their GoFundMe page under Kemptville Winter Trail, or cheques can also be made out to Kemptville Winter Trail and mailed to PO Box 5054, Kemptville, ON, K0G 1J0.