Welland residents are picking up the slack – as well as the debris left behind from a long cold winter – after the Welland Recreational Canal Corp. warned that the trails along the waterway are not being maintained.
Last week, not long after the WRCC issued a statement saying it would not be maintaining the trails due to a recent city council budget decision to cut about $300,000 from the WRCC’s $650,000 budget request, Amanda Deschenes was speaking to a friend complaining about the trail that runs along the Welland River on Merritt Island was blocked by fallen tree limbs.
She said the trees appeared to have been gnawed by beavers.
“It was borderline dangerous. Some of the trees you could just push and they’d fall over,” Deschenes said, recalling the conversation with her friend.
She posted pictures her friend sent her to Facebook, showing the condition of the trails.
“I had a crazy amount of shares and views on it,” she said.
Deschenes said “through the “power of social media,” Myles Calvert Jr. and Linda Mariage heard about the problem and chose to take action.
Calvert said he saw the pictures on Facebook and asked Mariage, “Do you want to do this?”
“Absolutely,” she replied.
Armed with handsaws, Calvert and Mariage walked past the public notice sign posted at the start of the trailing.
The sign – that has since been removed – warned visitors to: “Please be advised this facility is currently not being maintained due to funding limitations. Be alert to the potential danger of falling tree limbs. Please be cautious and use at own risk.”
They walked along the Willow Trail until they found the beaver-chewed trees blocking the path, and cleared the fallen trees. They then finished the work the beavers started on a few others trees that were still standing precariously, posing a danger to other trail users.
It only took about two hours to clear the debris.
Deschenes posted the pictures at about noon and by 2:30 p.m., the debris was cleared.
“We cut some of the trees down that were obviously going to fall on the trail,” Calvert said.
But there were other trees badly damaged by beavers that were too tall to deal with without more equipment.
Mariage said they didn’t mind spending an afternoon clearing the trail.
“It was a lot of work, but worth it,” Mariage said. “We like to do stuff like that just for exercise.”
To be able to do it and help out “was a big bonus,” she added.
Deschenes said she has met many people recently willing to do their part for their community.
“It’s really given me hope for humanity,” she said, laughing. “It sounds so lame, but really there’s a lot of general negativity. And to see how many people were willing to come forward to help, it’s so great.”
With people like Calvert and Mariage and many others who are willing to do their part to improve their community, Deschenes said there’s a lot of potential.
“That was two people in two hours,” she said. “I know that was just a portion of the trail and that the trails are large, but why can’t we … Oh my goodness, I could give you so many ideas.”
One idea she suggested was recruiting landscaping students from local schools to spend their coop placements clearing the trails and maintaining gardens.
“Maybe we could have someone from the city overseeing it,” Calvert suggested. “It would be very minimal time and cost to do something like that.”
But as it is, Deschenes is worried about the condition of the trails if nothing is done.
“This is going to be a disaster this summer. It really is. I’m not going to want to walk through here at all.”