Trail History

Trail Maintenance at Work

Carrying in supplies along the trail

Building a bridge

Rockway bridge

Repairing stairs

Replacing Ball's Falls stairs

It is not surprising that Bert Lowe’s original trail passed through his home village of Beaver Dams. Hikers had to cross the QEW on foot and through the Thorold Tunnel under the Welland Canal.

In 1976, a reroute eliminated the tunnel passage and part of the original trail became the St. Catharines Side Trail. This change was to conform to an optimum route based on a study carried out by the Ontario government. The new route was further north, crossing the Welland Canal on Glendale Avenue, and proceeding along the escarpment to Brock University where it followed a previous blue trail to DeCew road. In 1987, the main trail from DeCew easterly was switched back to the original trail under the 406 and through the Thorold tunnel. This change was felt necessary when property owners in a new subdivision fenced their lots very close to the escarpment dropoff. In 1989, the trail was restored to the northern route through the Brock campus as the BTA complained to the ministry about flooding in the 406 tunnel.

The NBTC has also been involved in the development of other trails and the arranging of hikes on these trails. Back in 1965, the NBTC suggested extending the trail to Niagara-on-the-Lake. Then in 1984, the Niagara Club took part in setting up the Upper Canada Heritage Trail, the General Brock Trail in Niagara-on-the-Lake and, with the Welland Canal Preservation Society, the Merritt Trail and the 12-Mile Trail. From 1995-97, the NBTC and several other organizations created the interpretive trail, close to the Bruce Trail, at Queenston, with interpretive posts describing 8 points of interest along the trail.

Crossing busy highways was a problem. In 1965, the NBTC requested the Ministry of Highways (MOH) to provide pedestrian crossings over the QEW and future highway 406. After considerable correspondence and a meeting with MOH officials, MOH agreed to build an underpass under 406, but the QEW problem was not solved for a long time.

From 1988 until 1994, hikers crossed over the QEW on the CN railway bridge, but in 1994, this was no longer permitted by CNR, so hikers had to walk to Mountain road to cross the QEW, and this increased the distance by about 5 km. In 2000, a reroute reduced that distance by about half. Over the next 10 years there were meetings with MOH, Niagara Region, and local MPPs. In 2000, Jim Rainforth made a vocal presentation to the region. In 2003, the BTA agreed to spend $50,000 from the Escarpment Protection Fund and MOH agreed to contribute $200,000. The Branscombe Foundation contributed $50,000. Finally, in 2006 it was definite the bridge would be built. The opening ceremony took place on June 22, 2008.

The most recent major changes took place in the 2000s, when the trail had to be removed from a private property in the Short Hills. After a new bridge was constructed at Terrace Creek, the Bruce Trail now followed what had been the Terrace Creek Side Trail and the former main trail from ? to the Pelham Road entrance to the park became a blue trail.

A great deal of the upkeep of the trail fell to the trail maintenance executive member and the willing recruits he could find among the members. In 1965, the trail was divided into 7 sections for organization of maintenance. In December 1966, they decided to have work parties Sunday mornings in the winter and perhaps mornings during Christmas week. The first mention of “Go to blazes day”, when members were asked to come out and work at 5 locations , was in 1987. There were 35 people at a 1990 GTB day. In 1991, GTB day was replaced by “Bruce Trail action day”, but by 1999, it was recommended that GTB day be re-introduced. More recently, trail maintenance directors have organized work parties to carry out the necessary work. For example, 2004 was a busy year with 22 work parties amassing 500 man hours of work.

Given that the trail passes along the escarpment through or near the Niagara escarpment, it follows that crossing streams, gullies, and highways entail construction of bridges and stiles. The club has been fortunate to have plenty of members with the skills to build the necessary structures, but also has on occasion been able to call on outside help. In 1981, students from Dalewood Public School cleared and blazed the trail from Woodend to Highway 405. In 1985, students, guided by Brock University staff, built a bridge over a chasm near Beamsville, and boys scouts built steps nears St. Davids. In 1988, students working on an Environmental Youth Corps program built steps in two locations, and a bridge near Cave Springs.

In September 1990, to permit reroute of the trail through the woods south of Brock, students in an outdoor recreation class under the direction of Dr. Simon Preist built 2 bridges.. In 1996, repairs were made to these by member work parties, and in May and September 1997, they were rebuilt by members. In 2006, one bridge was damaged and a group of bikers repaired it temporarily. In May 2007, it was reconstructed by members, and the other likewise in October 2007. One of them was done by 10 members in 3 days.

In summer 1994, club members, some Rotarians, and scouts worked together on the switchback and interpretive trail at Queenston. In 1997 teachers from Lincoln volunteered to do some cleanup of the trail from DeCew east at a time when they were engaged in a labour dispute with the school board.

In 2004, the BTC, as the parent organization is now called, acquired a property in Merriton which was extremely cluttered with garbage. To clear the trail, 78 people, including BTC members from Iroquoia and Toronto clubs, and some local businesses put in an estimated 442 hours of work.

What was probably the major project undertaken by members was that of building steps at the approach to Balls Falls in May-June 1993. Nineteen members worked a total of 347 hours on this project. The Canada Trust environmental fund provided some financial assistance.

In 2007, one of the bridges between DeCew and Brock was rebuilt by 10 members in 3 days. In July 2009, a 9-member crew built a new bridge over Terrace Creek in the Short Hills. They had help from the Provincial park crew, and hikers who carried some of the materials from the parking lot. This project permitted rerouting the trail , and a section of trail that had been on the main trail became the Terrace Creek Side Trail.