History of Ontario Pathways
In the hiking community, Ontario Pathways Inc. is unique as it is one of the few trails in the United States that owns its own trail.
In 1993-1994 we were the first trail to benefit with a loan from the Rails to Trails Conservancy. With this, along with a bank loan and funds raised and donations made, we were able to purchase the unsold portions of rail bed that is now our trail plus another collection of dislocated rail beds. In establishing what we wanted our trail to become, unneeded sections were sold off. Several parcels were bought back, easements were granted, plus a couple of bypasses off the rail bed were established to make our trail continuous with only one road walk.
Since 1994 hundreds of volunteers have donated their time, money and talents to this rebuilding effort. Many of these volunteers used their personal equipment, compressors, nail guns, saws, levels and other specialty tools to accomplish various tasks. Trash was removed, trees were cleared, and banks repaired. Trailheads were established with gates and places for trail users to park. A large shelter honoring Bill Matthews was built at Stanley plus erecting kiosks at Canandaigua and Phelps. Of the 13 bridges on the trail, 12 were given decking and railings. (The bridge over 5&20 at Aloquin was a half through plate girder bridge with its own sides and gravel bed). Several railroad mileage posts, and a signal tower left over from the railroad days were saved and preserved.
The culmination of what is our main trail today came in 2006 with the opening of the five span iron bridge over Routes 5&20 in Flint connecting both sections of our trail.
Since the connection and opening of our entire trail system, our commitment continues with weekly trail crews trimming and mowers mowing maintaining the pathway. Special crews take on individual projects to preserve the trail, repairing culverts, re-establishing ditches and clearing trees. Amenities have been added along the trail including:
- A new pedestrian bridge over Route 5&20 in Flint.
- Road crossings signs at all trail/road grade crossings.
- Enlarged the parking lot at Route 96 trailhead with split rail fencing.
- Shelter donated to OP honoring Dr. John Wright at Rt.96 trailhead
- Historical railroad crossing sign rehabbed and placed on the trail.
- Three loop trails were built adding mileage to our system: The Flint Creek Loop Trail at Wheat Road, The Train Wreck Loop Trail south of Orleans, and The Hemlock Grove Loop Trail south of Orleans.
- In 2018, The Mill Creek Side Trail was established.
In addition to our volunteer trail crews, Ontario Pathways has and continues to partner with other organizations to preserve, maintain and enhance the trail. They have included:
- Numerous Eagle Scout Projects along our trail dating back to our beginnings include establishing sections of trail and building railings and decking on bridges, rebuilding trailheads, establishing loop trails, and information plaques
- The Hobbies of Geo-caching and Letterboxing
- The Botanical Society and the Eaton Birding Society select our trail to enjoy their hobby.
- Promoting eat well/live well in the form of a Passport Series along our trail.
[Updated January 2019]