The new Trans Canada Trail Extension from Tillson Avenue in Tillsonburg to Base Line, north of Delhi, officially launched last Thursday, June 29, with a special ribbon cutting ceremony.
"The Trans Canada Trail, which is now recognized as The Great Trail, is an idea as historic in nature as Canada itself," said Tillsonburg Mayor Stephen Molnar in his comments to dignitaries and visitors. "This country has always been a nation of dreamers and doers, and this trail, while practical in the valuable contributions and opportunities it provides to our citizens, is also a symbol of partnership that continues to make Canada great.
"This national trail, and the section we celebrate today, is our turn to stand proud and connect this country from sea to sea to sea... this Great Trail connects all that is good about Canada. With this Oxford County section of the Trans Canada Trail, we have ourselves, collectively, become trail blazers.
"Whether you're looking for a place to hike, cycle, ride, cross-country ski or snowmobile, you can find an experience to accommodate you. As the longest recreational trail in the world, The Great Trail offers a wide range of activities through a variety of landscapes - urban, rural and wilderness along greenways, waterways and roadways. All of these features are in evidence right here in our backyard."
Molnar recognized the efforts of the Tillsonburg Town Council, including Councillors Penny Esseltine and Brian Stephenson who were in attendance Thursday morning, for "thinking beyond our borders and beyond our own unique interests to play a leadership role in an opportunity that could only be realized through positive dialogue, debate and ultimately decision."
Molnar expressed appreciation to Oxford County Council and its senior leadership team and all those who helped make the trail extension a reality. He also recognized and thanked the leadership and volunteers of the Trans Canada Trail organization, including Jim Paterson, who was on site Thursday, its volunteer partners and corporate sponsors.
"An idea as big and as bold as The Great Trail is one thing," said Molnar. "Seeing the vision realized some 25 years later after this commitment was made, and especially on this anniversary of our 150th birthday, is truly an exercise in national unity and pride.
"I'd also like to recognize the passionate support - and this important... it's been the passion and the resolve, sometimes even the patience, of residents of our community that have been key supporters of this initiative, and I'd like to recognize and thank them for being here as part of this celebration today.
"Tillsonburg is proud of our legacy as a healthy and vibrant community and an integrated trail system has always played a key part of that."
David Mayberry, Oxford County Warden, welcomed visitors to "Oxford's part of what I would call a national treasure."
"When this trail is completed across the country," said Mayberry, "I think it will be one of those things that will connect all of us from north to south, east to west. And once again, we'll realize what a great nation we are and how incredibly fortunate we are to live in Canada.
"I was particularly proud to see County Council support this project in cooperation with the Town of Tillsonburg, and the willingness of the Town to kind of be an equal partner on this project. They saw value for the Town, but they also saw the value of the bigger project. It's one of those examples where we realize we grow stronger together when we work together. The agreement between the County and the Town, I think, is a respectful and hopeful agreement that we can make sure this trail is here for a long time in the future.
"This was another integral part of making Oxford a great place to live," Mayberry summed up.
"Thank you very much to all the people who helped make this happen," said Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman, commending Oxford County and the Town of Tillsonburg's accomplishment.
"But it's not the accomplishment of local governments, or provincial government, or even the federal government. It's the accomplishment of all the people who have been involved with this section, with other sections, people who have come forward to realize that this is an important thing to happen, and we've been part of making that happen."
Frank Gross, Oxford County, Manager of Transportation and Waste, invited participants to walk the trail to Zenda Line, a 4-km round trip back to Tillson Avenue, with a water station set up at the 2-km mark.
"We've got some food coming, around 10:30 a.m., and we've got the blender bike set up - we're going to make some smoothies.
The new trail extension, currently suitable for walking and cycling, still has some signage and fencing to go up, said Gross.
He also noted a portion of the trail was blocked by a landowner near Middletown Line.
"The trail is going to remain closed near Middletown Line, there's a couple of obstructions there at the bridge, and just on this side of Middletown Line where we're dealing with some issues with the landowner. Hopefully we'll get those resolved soon."
After the ribbon cutting, Gross said the dispute, "is a matter before the courts."
To avoid the obstruction going east from Tillsonburg, Gross advised using Cornell Road from Oxford Road 13 to Middletown Line, a gravel road that takes you to New Road, where you can pick up the Trans Canada Trail again.
"A court date was set for July 7th," said Gross.