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It seems a good time to establish a North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group. Anyone interested? If yes, please contact me at parrysounds@gmail.com. Let’s start a discussion of how best to support the North Shore Rugged Trail as it seemingly has become the centre of business interest.

Background:
The Town of Parry Sound recently passed a by-law (here’s a link to the agenda preview summary, it’s Item 10.5.1) that confirmed the Town’s willingness to negotiate the relinquishing of certain rights to portions of the North Shore Rugged Trail to help support development of the privately owned property that lies inland from the trail. Very limited information was provided in the by-law and the supporting documents regarding what was being considered. There was a suggestion that any concessions would be limited.

Here is a link to the draft bylaw and supporting documents that was approved by Council 2016-11-01.

The Trail:
The North Shore Rugged Trail is an interesting Town of Parry Sound asset. It is a rugged trail that runs from the Smelter Wharf along the coast past Zhiishiib Rock, Thunder Creek, and Monument Point all the way to the Parry Sound / McDougall boundary. If you have hiked it you know how special it is, rugged for sure.

I hike the trail no less than once a week, and as often as five times a week. It provides for the best views of the Big Sound, sunsets, and Parry Island. While hiking the trail I often come across people who are taking the opportunity, minutes from their home, to get away from it all and challenge themselves a little with  hiking over the rocks and around, or through, the water. The North Shore Rugged Trail is quite unlike the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail, the trail that runs from Champaigne to Salt Dock Road. While the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail welcomes people to take a stroll and relax, the North Shore Rugged Trail demands more physically and mentally, with the corresponding rewards. Nor is the North Shore Rugged Trail like the Voldemort Trail (see link), the informal trail that runs inland from Salt Dock Road and is a favourite of people walking their dogs. The Voldemort Trail is not mentioned in any of the Town’s official trail documents because it is an informal trail that passes over private property for which permission has never been obtained by the Town, or the users. To the credit of the property owners they have been generous in not restricting access or prosecuting those who do use the trail. It seems it is these property owners who would like to secure certain considerations regarding the North Shore Rugged Trail to better develop their property. The Town is interested in seeing the property developed so as to increase the assessment base.

The Challenge:
It is unlikely that the North Shore Rugged Trail would be deeded over to new property owners with no access for the Public. The question of course is what kind of concessions will be necessary to incentivize development, and how will that impact public access. Who will have input and who will decide?

My major concern is that I believe Town Council and Staff have no familiarity, or love for the North Shore Rugged Trail. While I have seen members of Council and Staff on the Rotary Algonquin Regiment Fitness Trail from time-to-time, I have never, in the hundreds of times I have hiked the North Shore Rugged Trail, seen anyone from Council or Staff on the trail. It’s my sense that they know no more about the trail than can be gleaned by looking at a Google Maps view, their distant childhood memories, or perhaps some of my photos at ParrySights (click the North Shore Rugged Trail tag for images). There has been no investment by the Town to promote the North Shore Rugged Trail or to even provide a map or guide for its exploration. Is this a conscious effort to deter people from using the trail because it is rugged? Perhaps Staff and Council believe that it is in the Town’s interest to restrict or limit use of the trail so as to limit liability. That would be a shame.

A formally constituted North Shore Rugged Trail Users Group, involving people who know and love the trail, would be able to secure a seat at the table in any negotiations to restrict public access to the trail. I would also like to sees a Users Group take a leadership role in keeping the trail tidy and suggest opportunities to make it more user friendly. (The trail does not suffer from the issue of litter and trash as is the case with the Voldemort Trail, but from time-to-time stuff washed onto the shores from the Big Sound needs to be removed.) Those of you who regularly use the trail are familiar with how Thunder Creek often makes the trail impassable unless you are willing to get wet feet, or venture further upstream. This gets to be a problem in the fall and early spring when the water is c-c-cold. Wouldn’t a footbridge be nice?

Interested? Drop me a line. Perhaps the group can form in alliance with other local nature groups who may not have the same love and appreciation of the North Shore Rugged Trail but are committed to supporting trails and ongoing public access. We all need to work together.

“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

The Town’s lack of interest in the North Shore Rugged Trail is perhaps best illustrated with the photo below of the sign leading up to the trail. There was money for a new artist’s station, a sign announcing the new station that covered up part of the map, but not a new map?

Let’s make sure that the North Shore Rugged Trail gets the protection that it and it’s users deserve. I can be reached at parrysounds@gmail.com. Or if there is already an initiative underway let me know how I can help.

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got til its gone”

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