By Jacob Hoytema –
An online fundraiser has been launched to bring back the Sir John A. MacDonald (SJAM) Parkway Winter Trail, a 16 km route along the Ottawa River for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing or just walking once the snowy months arrive. Provided the fundraising goal of $20,000 is reached, the trail will stretch along the River from Dominion Transit Station to the back door of the Canadian War Museum.
The trail was launched for a short season as a pilot project last February as a collaboration between the National Capital Commission and the Westboro Beach Community Association, with support from Nakkertok Ski Club in Quebec and local volunteers. Dovercourt Recreation Association is providing support as well.
Money raised by the fundraiser will go towards paying the trail’s groomer, as well as buying the necessary components for the grooming equipment, which last year was borrowed from Nakkertok.
Dave Adams is returning as manager and head groomer of the SJAM Winter Trail. A groomer at Nakkertok and a former full-time ski racer, Dave says he is passionate about making the trail a community fixture in the winters to come.
“I have a deep history with the sport. It’s something that I want to pass down to my kids, it’s something that I want to pass down to my community,” Dave explains. He also stresses that the trail is open for all who wish to traverse it, not just skiers.
Starting the operation from the ground up last winter carried with it a number of challenges. Aside from administrative hurdles, Dave had to spend longer than normal hours grooming the trail.
Because this was the first time a trail had been made at this location along the Ottawa River — “virgin snow” as Dave calls it — the process was a difficult endeavour. Dave says the grooming sessions became ten- to twelve-hour days as he laboured to clean the unkempt land for public use. Dave says it will be much easier this year for the trail’s second iteration and says he expects to be able to maintain the trail with several three- or four-hour sessions a week.
Despite how “heavy-duty” the grooming process may sound, Dave says it’s entirely environmentally friendly: the heavyweight groomer doesn’t emit salt but rather cuts the snow with special knives and then presses it with a corduroy carpet.
Visitors to the trail can access it through one of the several bordering transit stations, or the parking lot at Westboro Beach, Champlain Park or the Canadian War Museum.
If the fundraiser brings in enough money, Dave says there are plans to set up ski racks so visitors can make a day-long excursion and stop for a snack or tour at the museum.
Edited to add for clarification: If the fundraising goal falls short of the $20,000 mark, the SJAM trail will still move ahead this year but there’d be fewer grooming sessions and/or other cutbacks.
For more information on the SJAM trail and to donate, readers can visit wintertrail.ca.