The Maitland Trail Association was formed on July 2, 1975 with the proposal to build a trail which would follow the path of the Maitland River. Originally, the vision included a trail which would run from Goderich, at the mouth of the Maitland River, to Wingham. However, that length was a bit much for a new volunteer group, and the focus was the creation of a 48 kilometre trail from Goderich to Auburn. Maybe someday, the original vision will be realized and the Maitland Trail will be extended to Wingham.
The liaison and permissions with the landowners was the first important step. Trail creation and maintenance followed and continues to the present – dozens of keen volunteers have donated countless hours of skill and sweat to make the trails accessible and safe. Trail Co-ordinators have been instrumental in corralling the energetic trail workers.
There is also an impressive list of trail rangers who monitor the conditions of their section of trail, doing minor trail repair and maintenance while recording major work for the trail workers to address in the future.
In addition to all of the usual trail maintenance challenges like trimming, erosion control, deadfalls and washouts, two natural disasters have challenged the MTA – the 1995 mesocyclone and the 2011 F3 tornado. Both of these events required huge efforts from our regular trail crews and also the assistance of generous volunteers from neighboring trial associations.
The MTA newsletter has been an important communication tool for the MTA and its members – promoting MTA events and related news items.
The MTA hosts dozens of hike and ski/snowshoe outings throughout the year; in addition, there are weekly groups such as the Tuesday Trompers which offer a regular opportunity to hike, ski or snowshoe. The annual Candle Light Walk, the John Hindmarsh Environmental Trust Fund Compost and Plant Sale, and the July 1st hike at dawn are examples of MTA community events.
End-to-End hikes are popular on the Maitland Trail also – hundreds have earned their ‘Official End-to-End’ badge. The Camino Maitland hike is the largest group End-to-End in the MTA history. The first Camino Maitland took place on the weekend of June 22-23, 2013. From 2014-2019, the hike was held in September and brought hundreds of hikers from all over Ontario and beyond.
The MTA detailed Trail Guide provides a great resource for hikers – its first edition, celebrated the 25th anniversary of the trail and it was released in July 2000.
The second edition of the Trail Guide was released in 2007 with the added clarity of GPS data. A committee carefully reviewed the trial and the first edition, creating a new and improved trail guide. The Ontario Trillium Foundation was a key funder and the County of Huron Planning and Development GIS staff made the maps. The third edition was released in 2015.
The MTA is also involved in maintaining other local trails, in addition to the main Maitland Trail. These include: The Maitland Woods in Goderich; the Goderich to Auburn Rail Trail (GART); the Millennium Trial in Goderich; the Sifto Loop and the Old Menesetung Trail (located at the north end of the Menesetung Bridge) – over 80 kms in trails in total!
The Maitland Woods have had the added challenge of trail surfacing and boardwalks. A custom-built trailer has hauled many loads of gravel. Many signs were hand-made for tree identification making the Maitland Woods a unique learning arboretum.
The Maitland Trail Association headquarters was located in the former CPR station at the Goderich harbor for many years; most recently, a truck trailer was converted to provide a neat and organized storage location for the required trail maintenance tools.
The MTA is a member of Hike Ontario, the ‘umbrella Association’ consisting of most of the major trail systems in Ontario. Through this combined membership, we are able to obtain more reasonable insurance coverage for our association; obtained valuable guides and strategies for trail building; created an inclusive Risk Management Policy and have access to Certified Instructors who have trained our own club’s extensive list of certified Hike Leaders.
The MTA encourages hiking, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, and nature study as a form of recreation along the trails. The trails are built largely on private land through the courtesy of the landowners. Permission of the landowners is granted for the trail as a footpath and is not for the use of motorized vehicles of any type. Cycling is only permitted on the GART.
If we have missed any historical notes, or if you have a good tale to tell or photo to share, please contact us.
Over the years, many people have been instrumental in making this organization successful, Below is a list of some of those involved. It is not exhaustive; our apologies for any who have been omitted.
Lloyd Aubin, Deb Baxter, Jim Beatty, Tineasha Brenot, Marg Bushell, Frank Cameron, Anne Capper, Patrick Capper, Mike Cicchini, Erica Clark, Barb Currie, Cole Currie, Alicia Dalton, Clarence Denomme, Len Dodkin, Patrick Donnelly, Doug Ellacott, Jacqui Empson Laporte, Cindy Fisher, Don Forbes, Harold Frost, Mark Gaully, Kent Gillin, Roger Goddard, Sandra Goddard, Joanne Hickey, Hilary Hodgins, Anthony Hodsman, Heinz Hoernig, Wendy Hoernig, Mava Holland, Daniel Holm, Sandra Howe, Ellen Humphrey Allen, Jack Imhoff, Rod Jervis, Harold Johnstone, Jean Knight, Rod LaFontaine, Erinn Lawrie, Karen Lehnen, Taylor Lowe, Kathleen Lush, Mike Malhiot, Ken Magee, Brian McCulloch, Russel McDonald, Hugh McGregor, Bethany McRae, Norm McHolm, Con Melady, Karen Melady, Mike O’Brien, Pat Osborne, Liesel Pella, Kate Procter, Dave Pugh, Mike Pullen, Susanna Reid, Beth Ross, Bill Rutledge, Ethel-Mae Seaman, Robert Semple, Brad Smith, John Stadleman, Roberta Stemp, Gerry Stirling, Allison Stoecker, Anne Storey, John Thompson, Joan VandenBroeck, Janie Van Essen, Gerry Wasylciw, Cristen Watt, Tim Wendel, Rachel White, Anthony Wilkinson, Bill Wisser, Norm Wodhams… and many more.