By Stephen Petrick
The hiking trails, ski trails, portage routes and campsites that dot the Township of Algonquin Highlands are the pride of the community – and now there’s a plan in place to help guard and preserve these natural assets.
The completion of a new forest management plan received praise at the Nov. 4 Algonquin Highlands council meeting, held virtually.
Chris Card, parks, recreation and trails manager, spoke about the plan, which was described as a 10-year forest management plan for the Bancroft, Minden Forest. The plan will better help forest users to understand it’s a shared asset and ensures that logging businesses do not interfere with important hiking trails, ski trails and other assets that are important to the municipality.
A local citizens committee was formed to assist the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Bancroft-Minden Forest Company in the development of the plan. Card was invited to review and comment on stage four of the public consultation process for the plan.
“I find this to be a big step towards the long-term sustainability of our trail assets,” said Card.
He explained that municipal officials began to lobby for such a plan in 2014 when they saw a need to put some “parameters” on forestry operations being done near trail systems.
Now, “we’ve been able to develop what I would refer to as area of concern prescriptions,” said Card. “In essence they are to put buffer zones along with timing restrictions around all our trail assets.”
The plan also allows for the municipality to learn about work schedules of local forest operators. Card would then be able to review those schedules and see if the work has an impact on the municipality’s operations.
As an example of the plan’s benefit, he said the current plan shows there will be some forestry operations taking place around Hawk Lake. Knowing this, Card has been able to connect business people with a property owners association for the area, so the two groups can discuss the work right away.
Algonquin Highlands councillors voted to accept Card’s report; essentially an endorsement of the plan.
“I was thrilled to read this,” said Mayor Carol Moffatt. “It was a long time in the making.”
She shared a story about how, several years ago, she, Card and another municipal official met with a logging company representative in Minden because they were surprised to learn that trees were being cut around a municipal trail system and campers were cancelling reservations. The story spoke to the need for such a plan.
Councillor Jennifer Dailloux praised the plan, saying “it’s a good news day for Algonquin Highlands council.” She said this plan, coupled with moves being made by the Community Climate Action Plan shows that “we’re hitting important points in our strategic vision as a council.”
Algonquin Highlands prides itself on providing hiking trails to residents and tourists. The township’s website says “there are over 38 kilometres of back-country hiking and walking trails in the area. They journey through mystical forests, meander along scenic rivers, ascend to amazing lookouts and arrive at one-of-a-kind heritage sites.”