By Brier Dodge (ARTICLE ORLEANS NEWS)
A hidden trail winds its way behind the Cumberland Village Heritage Museum, over a creek and up a ridge to a patch of apple trees. The public trail is next to the museum on city land and has been developed by volunteers from the Cumberland Community Association. Its subtlety isn't meant to keep it a secret; it's meant to keep it authentic. "We're trying to make it like walking through a farm," said Lyle Fair, the community association volunteer in charge of community trails. "Keeping that essence of a farm is really important." The trail starts next to the museum and extends away from the road next to a field. Further back, it passes land a local farmer - whose family originally owns the land - rents and farms.
Last year, the community association received a $8,000 grant from the city for improvements to the trail. Boardwalks were built in areas where it was particularly muddy from the leda clay or quite steep. Fair was also able to purchase stone dust which will fix up some particularly muddy areas of the path. He still marks the routes with red flags, but as the path get used and walked on, the trail will become more defined and the markers less essential. The trail, which will cover about five kilometres once fully developed, is used year round. In the spring, wildflowers and trilliums grow in parts, Fair said. Next year, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority will plant tress to fill in other areas and define the trail. In the winter, Fair leaves half the trail with fresh snow for snowshoers, and takes his snowmobile through the second half and as far up the ridge behind the museum as his snowmobile's motor permits to clear the trail for the cross country skiers. He doesn't maintain the trails daily, but makes sure they're ready for each weekend. "I don't mind, it's kind of fun," he said. "I bring in my lawn tractor in the summer." He hopes to see the trails developed south of the museum, over the small creek that runs behind, further for the cross country skiers or hikers who would enjoy the view of the museum from up the hill.
Fair also hopes that local schoolchildren can use the site to look at geographic features - such as the leda clay - or for local high school cross country skiing teams to train. Future projects will hopefully include a expanding the small parking lot and marking the trail with city signs. The community association has worked well with other organizations, including the museum, Fair said. They've put up fencing to make sure people don't wander off the trails and through the museum's property on offhours. "If you're coming out to the museum, maybe you can walk the trails," he said. "Part of the success is we collaborate with groups." While parking is a barrier to accommodating large crowds, anyone from the area is welcome to come and use the trails. In fact, the more people who travel the trails eases the workload for Fair and the community association, as walkers and skiers pack down the trail or the snow. To locate the trail, follow the pathway next to the museum's parking lot towards the trees and ravine. The museum's address is 2940 Old Montreal Rd.