In third quarter 2019 the observant among you would have noticed a subtle change in the local scenery:
These are small signs in a big forest, but if you enjoy the AF single-track then their significance belies their size. The new signs and maps are public indication that AF trails, supported through the hard work performed by HAFTA’s volunteers, have a renewed opportunity to exist.
With such an opportunity at our doorstep today and the previous decade a fading memory, we should take a moment to reflect on the pressures (natural and man-made) that years ago formed a singularity; through which instead of more doom, HAFTA and all these good works have emerged.
We don’t mean to be a wet blanket on this happy moment, but HAFTA has learned that such pressures will never totally disappear. Which means we can’t take the signs as our finish line. So, if the signs aren’t the goal then what’s important about them? They acknowledge that the energy, time and goodwill many individuals gave to kick-start this opportunity hasn’t been in vain. The signs also mean that in the coming years a continuous amount of energy and time will be required to see the trails continue to prosper. To create that future each of us needs to find our way to pay some of the goodwill we have received forward; otherwise the gift never leaves our hands.
Sustaining a bright future for the trails doesn’t mean the trails will take everything back from you they’ve ever given, but it definitely takes some level of reinvestment on your part. The more people who carry their own weight in this respect the lower the burden becomes on others.
One option to pay it forward is volunteering with the 2020-21 Trail Captain program. This program directly helps our fellow forest users through increasing the quality of single-track trails and is crucial to HAFTA fulfilling its new maintenance and inspection commitments to Halton Region. Trail Captain tools and training are provided through us. Another option is to show up and work at trail days. Every Spring and Fall we have a few. We try to offer levels of commitment from basic membership (everybody should have one) to serving the community as a HAFTA board member.
Site #1: The Turner boardwalk OR That Dang Boardwalk That Won’t Stay Put
The Plan For Site #1
Brainstorming for the build at Site #1 began well over a year prior with many creative ideas being discussed. Once we settled on our final vision, the planning phase began in mid 2019. Multiple site surveys and inspections were done. How can we avoid having to remove the boardwalk again? Can we use the existing sections and where is the high-water mark so we can avoid it floating away again?
In the end we chose the simple solution of raising the boardwalk on patio-stone and fixing it together using sister runners. HAFTA decided that, if this answer fails we have alternate ideas. But our hope is that these blocks are enough to see us through the various flooding that affects this segment of trail.
Even though this patio-stone answer was simple it still wasn’t easy to accomplish. Machinery had to be organized and materials needed to be dropped on site, further all three entities (HAFTA, Halton Region and their contractor PAL Lumber) had to be on the same page as to what the end goal was and the role they would play in achieving it.
Site #1: The Day Of
The weather had been touch and go during the final days leading up to this build. Enough rain had fallen that some wanted to cancel and swear off the whole enterprise, but with frost coming and no guarantee the weather would be better next weekend it was “go” time for this boardwalk.
Thankfully the previous week’s soil conditions remained dry enough to allow a back-hoe in to grade the access-road and push some large boulders aside – It would have been game-over if the machinery couldn’t give us the initial assist.
When the actual day came our volunteers arrived at 1pm, bringing along a few light showers. Thankfully that precipitation amounted to nothing more than a passing drizzle which only fell during the raffle we held for the prizes donated to HAFTA by Brian at Outdoor Gear Canada.
During the drizzle, folks got to snack on fresh-hot samosas whilst they signed the usual waivers and waited to hear if they held a lucky raffle ticket. Once the raffles, waivers and eventually a safety briefing were completed our group split into two teams. One group went to Site #1 to “fix” the floating boardwalk and the second went to Site #2 (more about that further down this page.) Essentially these two groups were split according to those that had water-proof boots and those that had not!
Installing the boardwalk at Site #1 wasn’t quite straightforward. Over the years it’s been extended by different suppliers – Leading to different dimensions of lumber and joining techniques.
One of the first tasks volunteers performed was removal of the original joiners: Latch and loop hardware. That hardware was rusty, bent and twisted. Naturally a few curse-words were overheard as it resisted removal. The second task was to create a level and stable footing for the patio-stones we’d been given by Halton Region.
To keep the patio-stones level, volunteers dug them small footings and back-filled a bit with gravel-screening from the surface of the main carriageway. This helped minimize the settling that happens when you lay stone in a freshly-graded pudding-soil. Care had to be taken at this point because the stones were each 6″ high and the boardwalk’s final height couldn’t be more than 24″ above the ground; otherwise a railing would have to be installed (and nobody wants that!) We also had to make sure the boardwalks were as level with each other as possible to avoid trip-hazards.
At one point during the build we realized we’d come up a bit short on the patio-stones and we switched to resting the boardwalk runner on 4x4s until more stones could be supplied.
Slowly and steadily over the course of an afternoon the pieces of this project came together. While one team dug holes for footings and laid screening, another levelled in the stones and placed boardwalk sections atop. Lastly a few volunteers went along the length of the boardwalk affixing sister runners with lag-bolts so that everything would be rock-solid.
HAFTA is happy to say it’s “Mission Accomplished” at Site #1. Thank you to all the volunteers at this site! This boardwalk is a key bit of infrastructure because it connects the north forest to south and with your help it should now remain a viable option during all sorts of weather.
Site #2 Mahon Boardwalk Tweak
The Mahon/Bat Box Boardwalk was the first major build HAFTA ever got up to, however it wasn’t perfect. The angle of its one “T” corner needed to be eased for all riders. Bike wheelbases are so long nowadays! The tightness of this corner came to the forefront during a course-walk for the upcoming Multi-Surface Ride (aka Gravel bike) that is set to travel the AF’s double-tracks in spring 2020.
In addition to easing the corner we extended the boardwalk further to the North over a developing mud-hole.
Excellent work, that is some fine bush-carpentry!
Site #3: Seasonally Flooded Segment of Boundary Trail A
Although it was already a long day at this point, we had the tools on hand so why not spend the remaining two hours of daylight fixing the last major problem in this area.
Over the years a small section of Boundary Trail A was always vulnerable to seasonal ponding. Before you worry, it’s too small and temporary to support endangered critters, however its presence does encourage people to leave the trail which increases their impact on surrounding ecology.
Extension of the armouring across the flooded area was accomplished using pulaski’s and sledge hammers to recess and creating a rugged screening that can support many decades of riders and hikers. This is the same technique as we used further south on Boundary Trail A during the first Fall Build.
The screening likely won’t be above water-level at points, but if you know it’s there and that you’re not going to sink down then you can freely cross the flooded area. A brief test of faith a’la Indiana Jones style if you will!
We finished at Site #3 just as the sun began to set, many of us have hopes that with this screening material being added to Boundary Trail A it can become an all-weather trail or at least a more durable one.
As a side note, we’re realizing steps need to be taken in this changing climate as we deal with the 100 year rainstorms that are coming every few years and flooding low-lying areas. This is something we’re learning anecdotally and through our volunteering on the Heritage lands committee. Using local rock work and hand tools is a lot of work, but luckily we have a solid base of rock in our forest and committed volunteers to draw on. Some other networks are not as fortunate and have to rely on commercially fabricated solutions that really do not match the aesthetic of the woods.