A family pulls up in the parking lot. It was a rather unusual warm day for the time of year so they decided to make something of it and go for a walk. The mother placed her camera around her neck as she helped her oldest son hop out of the car who went right to the task of finding rocks to add to his collection. Meanwhile, her husband put shoes and socks on the youngest son, as is the usual these days before taking him out of the family car. They walk up to an old train bridge that is no longer in use but included a little boardwalk on the one side for walkers. They know they must cross this bridge in order to get to their destination. They survey the safety of this bridge, it wasn’t until they were half way through with seeing the missing safety rails that they know it would be easy for someone not paying attention to just fall in to the wide river flowing quickly underneath. Still they trudge on insanely carefully, with the father holding the youngest while the mother ensures her other son is holding her hand tightly on the far side from the rail. The views are lovely the mother notes as she quickly takes a picture of the sun glistening amongst the trees and reflecting off of the water as she has one hand on the camera and the other firmly on her little boy. The family gets across the bridge and with a sigh of relief starts their walk. As they enter the trail itself the mother and father’s breath becomes quicker once again and more of an anxiety type of breathing with each new step. The oldest son is told not to stray and explore like most walks they have taken in the past as the youngest is still being carried, also not able to explore. This is not a place that children should be exploring. Perhaps it is not even a place where the adults should be exploring. With deep hills on either side of the trail in a forested area that are not only filled with more trails below, but with garbage scattered everywhere, things start to seem rather disconcerting. They try to keep positive and keep walking but they start to notice that the leisurely stroll that they had planned has now turned into a quick paced, looking behind your back type of walk. Over on the right hand side the mother notices some semi-trailers with open backs covered in graffiti a bit deeper into the bushes. The walk that started as gentle voices talking about the funny shenanigans of the boys is now a silent walk. The mind is starting to take over any communication with ‘what if’ scenarios. Before finishing the sentence saying “We can turn back whenever” the husband already agrees and turns back around. That is when it happened…..
|A view of the actual Thames Grove Conservation Area|
That is when I realized this was the scariest trail I have ever been on. I was such a mixture of emotions of disappointment, scared, and worried. Now I originally thought this was part of the Thames Grove Conservation Area as the sign for the Conservation Area points to this trail where there is parking and it is right next to the Conservation Area (If you go back to my post on Thames Grove Conservation Area Part 1 you will see pictures of the bridge even). Part 1 that I walked a couple of months ago with my mum was beautiful! The trails were taken care of, there were garbage bags set up, and just seemed like a safe spot.
This part of the Water Street Park trail (the part that includes that train bridge) seemed as though it has not been looked after in a long time. This was by far the fastest trail I have ever been on and the most scared I have been on one (and I once lived in Thunder Bay where there were bears!) I wouldn’t even call it a trail to be honest. In fact, as we quickly got the boys back in the car and I double checked we were in the right place.
But here I am now sitting next to my “Pathways of Chatham-Kent” booklet (Reprinted in 2009- but was given to me in May 2013) filled with amazing and beautiful trails and on page 14 is the Water Street Park (Single Trail) map showing the little dotted line showing the trail path going across that same train bridge we did. It boasts that, “The park, which borders the Thames River, offers bike trails and pathways for you and your family to enjoy”
I am usually not a negative person and always like to try to find the light in every situation but I have nothing good to say about this ‘trail’. It is not safe, it is not taken care of, and it is frightening! I can only hope that Chatham-Kent will either start looking seriously into it and take care of it, or just stop advertising it as a hiking trail and block off that train bridge.
Now, I live here so I know what else there is that Chatham-Kent offers but I can only imagine what any person outside of Chatham-Kent wanting to explore the region would think of our community if they went to this place.
I guess to try and stay positive I will say I may recommend this ‘trail’ to Jerry Bruckheimer. It might come in handy if he needs to find a spot to film an opening scene to a CSI episode (sorry it is Wednesday night so it is on my mind anyways!). Otherwise, I recommend this ‘trail’ to absolutely no one.
I also learned my lesson to follow my mommy instincts and not even attempt trails that make me feel so uneasy, even if I am on the trails that my community should be making sure is safe and that are promoting.