On Jan. 1, Ontario Public Interest Research Group volunteer coordinator Randy Kay set out to find historical trails that once winded through the natural area behind Cootes Dr. It was this day that he stumbled upon Maria’s Walk, a well-used trail that connects Lot M to Thorndale Cres.
Although the trail is often used by the public, concrete barriers and fallen trees block its entrance. A sign warns that “violators will be charged under the trespass to property act 2(1)(a)(ii).”
Kay, an activist and author of the Restore Cootes blog, aims to get this historical trail re-opened and remove the barriers blocking the entrance to the trail.
“[Trail] users are criminalized by warning signs, [which] is to me a little outrageous considering that other trails that McMaster has under their control are ‘use at own risk’ and are somewhat welcoming to the public,” said Kay. “People use it anyway; why not make it more welcoming?”
In the late 1950s, the area that now consists of parking lots M, N, O, and P was once owned by the Royal Botanical Gardens and made up the Coldspring Valley Nature Sanctuary. By 1963, McMaster had purchased the land as part of their parking expansion plan.
Maria’s Walk is one of the last trails remaining from the original trail system made in 1958, and is a shortcut that connects Lot M to Westaway Rd. and Thorndale Cres.
“The goal is that McMaster will recognize the historical significance of the trail, [and] the utility of it as well for the people that are already using it,” said Kay.
In the past, the university has been receptive to plans to restore the natural area around the large parking lots. In 2014 the university removed 20 metres of pavement to make more room for wildlife around Spencer’s Creek.
“There was lots of resistance,” said Kay. “But I’ll give credit to the University administration here, the President [Patrick Deane] seems very open to these sorts of ideas.”
The project, which is in its preliminary stages, may involve a partnership with MacGreen and other environmental clubs to help raise awareness and improve the trail. Kay remains hopeful that the University will respond to his call for re-opening the trail.