While maintaining the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a relatively straightforward endeavour, caring for 40km of meandering trails in the Dundas Valley is anything but. The steep escarpment slopes, unique geologic formations, dense Carolinian forest and countless Spencer Creek tributaries that make the Valley such a beautiful place to visit also pose a unique set of challenges. With a marked increase in extreme weather events and increased community use in recent years, the beloved trail system is constantly in need of maintenance.
Luckily for the our trails, the running and equestrian communities are always eager to help. Each year, the Burlington Runners Club organizes the Sulphur Springs Trail Race. For the last 27 years, proceeds from the volunteer-run race have supported the Dundas Valley Trails Fund.
Each summer, the Dundas Valley Equestrian Association hosts the Equestrian Campout fundraiser. Since the first rides in the early 1990s, equestrians have camped in the main parking lot at the Dundas Valley Conservation Area and taken group rides through the trail system. Participants support the Dundas Valley Trails Fund with registration fees, auctions and pledges from friends and family.
These fundraisers take an extraordinary amount of time to organize and all of that hard work is contributed by volunteers. The Foundation is so lucky to be able to count on their support year after year!
For many of our donors, the Hamilton to Brantford Rail Trail is a vital link between their communities and the natural world. The much-loved multi-use trail connects two urban centres with the beautiful and diverse landscape between them. The trail was re-opened as part of the first phase of relaxed restrictions during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
What most trail users don’t know is that this trail wouldn’t exist today if it weren’t for a massive fundraising effort in the 1990s. The Foundation’s Rails to Trails campaign was a true community effort to turn the old rail line into a multi-use trail. The Hamilton Automobile Club (once Canada’s oldest Automobile Club, now a part of CAA) sponsored the first kilometre of the Hamilton to Jerseyville portion of the 32km trail. From there, the Foundation solicited its donors, community partners and got the word out to everyone in the Hamilton watershed. The Foundation even held a Race Night fundraiser in 1994 at the Flamboro Downs racetrack! By the time the trail was completed in the late 1990s, the Foundation had used just about every fundraising method under the sun.
A few years later, corporate partnerships helped the Foundation take a much more straightforward approach to fundraising. Two trails were built to coincide with the turn of the millennium, one in Upper Stoney Creek and the other in Dundas and Flamborough, running through Christie Lake CA. Those have become the Dofasco 2000 Trail and Lafarge 2000 Trail. As their names suggest, the two corporate partners, Dofasco (now ArcelorMittal Dofasco) and Lafarge Canada, stepped up to provide leadership donations for each trail.
Today the Dofasco 2000 Trail connects the Devil’s Punchbowl CA with the Vinemount Swamp and will soon connect to the new Saltfleet Conservation Area.
Today these trails are a part of the fabric of Hamilton’s communities. None of them would exist, however, if it hadn’t been for the wonderful group of donors who made them happen.