COORJC Rookies Pencil Lake Adopt – A – Trail Cleanup August 2021
Adopting Pencil Lake Trail by Brad Yhard
It started in early August of 2021. I realized I had run Pencil Lake at least a half dozen times this season and was scheduled to run it several more with Central Ontario Off Road Jeep Club (COORJC) Rookie Runs, Not a Pavement Princess runs organized by Amber Block and 4Lo Jeeps, personal runs, and checking conditions for the OF4WD. I knew about the OF4WD Adopt a Trail Program, and decided that it made sense to adopt this great trail.
Like any trail, there is always some work that needs to be done: garbage at the trailhead, a couple of culverts needing attention (more on that later), and during my last run I realized that there were several small “widowmaker” trees over the trail itself.
After emails back and forth with Peter Wood from OF4WD, COORJC founder Mark Sims, and the COORJC Rookie Run coordinators, Pencil Lake trail was adopted by COORJC Rookies with myself as coordinator!
A cleanup was scheduled for the Sunday of the long weekend (September 5th), and was immediately listed on the COORJC Club calendar. A message was quickly received from one of my friends that I often guide with for Rookie Runs, Jay Nikitin, offering his assistance. I do not think he realized how much work he was getting himself into!
Over the next few weeks, 8 participants had signed up to help. A good mixture of rookies from this season’s runs and “seasoned veterans” of the offroading community. The day was looking great, even though leading up to the cleanup, the weather was looking grim, with a forecast of rain. There was concern that we might have some cancellations. In the end, a great size group with a variety of skill levels solidified.
The night before the run, I received messages from two different friends advising me that they had run the trail the day before, and that a large tree was down which they did not have the equipment to deal with. Challenge accepted!
On the day of the clean up, most of the group met at Base Camp COORJC, a beautiful plot of land owned by a member of the club that is occasionally used as a meeting place for its runs. A few messages from people running late, arrangements to meet at the trailhead, and we were off!
Once at the trailhead, we aired down, did a pre-run talk, and away we went! Right at the beginning, we moved a car tire, an inflatable “Toronto Maple Leafs” pool, and a lounge chair to the side of the highway for pickup on garbage day. It is too bad that people see areas like this as dumping grounds, when taking it to the dump is in reality, so cheap. Not knowing local policies, I plan to go back to make sure it was removed, and/or take it to the dump if it is still there. We also picked up 4 bags of garbage and we had just barely entered the trailhead..
We stopped at several points along the way to pick up stray cans and garbage, cleaned out the fire pit at the bridge, and then arrived at the first culvert that needed our attention. Several discussions were had with the OF4WD prior to the run about these culverts. We determined that removing the culverts fell under the MNRf definition of trail maintenance. Trail improvements and grading had taken place over the years, and the remnants of the culvert were essentially debris at this point. The culverts were no longer serving their original purpose as what was left was split open at the top and had filled with sand/mud/rocks. The jagged edges posed a safety hazard to any person/vehicle/equestrian that used this trail. Volunteers dug around the remnants of the culvert to get a tree saver around it, and with a few winch pulls and snatchblock relocations, the culvert was out. The team moved on!
On previous runs, I had noticed a very soft spot forming at the end of a section that ran along a beaver dam. The day of the cleanup, we found that it had become significantly worse! Rocks from along the sides of the trail were used to to fill it in to the best of our ability this time around. When I completed my OF4WD Trail Report, I included a recommendation that we bring in a load of gravel early next season, to prevent it from deteriorating further.
Moving on to the next section of trail, we found the tree that friends had messaged about the night before. It was definitely big at about 2.5 feet across and 15-20 feet long and was partially blocking the trail. Vehicles had already begun to create a bypass around it, which we wanted to prevent from becoming permanent.
I knew one of the volunteers, Ron Gaudet, was handy with a chainsaw, and I had my trusty DeWalt. Jay, Ron and I met to come up with a plan of attack. Working from either end, we removed the top and side limbs, making sure not to remove the weight bearing ones. Periodically, we would stop and have other volunteers move cut limbs out of the way, to the other side of the trail, effectively blocking the temporary bypass. After cutting the trunk into three, we winched the pieces using a snatchblock across the trail to finish blocking the bypass. Challenge accomplished!
Next challenge was the second culvert and it was in worse condition than the first! This actually worked to our advantage, as the top portions were easily pulled apart by hand and five minutes later, we were on our way again!
When we arrived at the water crossing, some people chose to cross, while others decided to take the bypass climb. We all met at the top for a great lunch and were amazed to find very little garbage. We were even met by friends that had heard we were doing a cleanup, and came by to say hi!
Following lunch, as it was getting late in the day, we did not stop until we reached the end of the trail. In all, we gathered 6 large bags of garbage which volunteers took home for disposal.
The unsettled weather held off until everyone was aired up, and definitely a good time was had by all. We call that success!
Thank you to all of the volunteers, Mo Gaudet for her amazing editing skills and especially to my wife Tasha for putting up with my antics and ideas, and driving for the day. Looking forward to repeating the process next year!