June 5 is International Trails Day, an annual and worldwide celebration of trails and the healthy lifestyle they promote! Looking for ideas? The Ontario Heritage Trust conserves and protects hundreds of natural heritage sites across the province, many of which can be enjoyed through publicly accessible trail systems. Check out the Trust’s list of natural heritage sites to find one near you: heritagetrust.on.ca/natural.
“The well-being of Ontarians is crucial during these difficult times and spending time in nature can offer numerous benefits for both physical and mental health,” says John Ecker, Chair of the Ontario Heritage Trust. “That’s why we are pleased to be working with over 50 partners to promote and provide the public with access to provincially-significant natural heritage lands. Whether it’s to enjoy the varied topography of the Bruce Trail, stretching from Niagara to Tobermory, bird watching at Fleetwood Creek Natural Area in Kawartha Lakes or exploring the beach of Great Manitou Island near North Bay, we encourage everyone to exercise caution and explore locally.”
International Trails Day is also an opportunity to recognize the importance of the province’s natural environment. The Trust’s natural heritage properties protect areas that provide habitat to many species at risk and enhance our well-being and quality of life. Visitors are reminded to remain on designated paths to reduce the impact of their footprints to help preserve important habitats or sensitive geological formations.
As Ontarians head out to explore the great outdoors, the Trust encourages everybody to remember trails and hiking etiquettes for a safe visit. Follow COVID-19 public health and safety protocols, such as physical distancing, and stay close to home.
Tips before you visit a site:
- If you’re showing any symptoms of COVID-19, or if you’ve been in contact with anyone who has the virus, please stay home and postpone your hike to a later date.
- Check the website of local health authorities to ensure that you’re following applicable protocols and if there are current travel restrictions in place.
- Check a site’s hours of operations and if you need a reservation. Popular sites, like the Cheltenham Badlands, require advanced booking and parking reservations.
What to expect from your visit:
- Bring your own hand sanitizers and drinking water as public amenities for handwashing or drinking water may be temporarily unavailable or restricted.
- Follow proper trail etiquette such as remaining on marked and designated paths where it is available and physical distancing of at least 2 metres from other hikers.
- Some trails or natural sites may be entirely closed or partially closed for public health and safety or to protect extremely sensitive environment. Please respect closures and don’t trespass.
COVID-19 safety and trail etiquette guidelines can be found at Ontario Trails and Bruce Trail Conservancy. To view the latest information from the Government of Ontario on COVID-19, please see ontario.ca/coronavirus.
Every year, the Trust focuses on an interpretive theme to guide its work. This year, the focus is on the importance of the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the use of Ontario’s wonderful natural areas and trail systems. As more people visit these special places, more work is needed to maintain the sites so they can be enjoyed today and in the future. Help the Trust continue its conservation work – make a donation at heritagetrust.on.ca/give.
SOURCE Ontario Heritage Trust