I use the trails through Dundas Valley Conservation Area almost daily. For years I have cut through to the Rail Trail on my bike using the Spring Creek trail on my way to work; I use the Sawmill Trail to get to Ancaster Wells for spring water. My daughter and I rode to Ancaster through the valley using a combo of Spring Creek, Rail Trail, Main Loop, Headwaters, Hilltop and Spring Trail.
OK, you're perhaps wondering why I'm regaling you with this information: "where's the confession?" you might reasonably enquire.
Well, I wasn't paying for the privilege of using the trails.
Several years ago, when cuts in funding where instituted by the Provincial Conservative Government of the day, the Conservation Area began to charge admission.
So, two things were at play in my head: One, I didn't vote for the Tories (since they were all about cutting public sector in favour of the ideologically driven "market" solutions); and, two, I figured the fee was for drivers, not for people walking or cycling.
So I was using the trails as a renegade trail rider.
That all changed today.
Riding my bike along the Monarch Trail I was met by two guys in a DVCA pick-up truck on the trail.
The driver stopped me to ask if I had paid a $2.00 daily fee.
At first I was annoyed that on a weekday, I was being stopped and asked to pay, after all (I rationalized), I was just cutting through.
But as we debated the merits of the fees, I became convinced that buying a $25/year pass for non-automotive access was, after all, a good thing.
In fact, after I left them, I did a little detour to the Trail Centre in Dundas Valley and purchased the pass right away.
To be honest, I feel better for doing so.
The pass gives me free (non-automotive) access to Christie, Valens, Westfield, Confederation Park, Dundas Valley, and Fifty point for the year.
Drivers can get a pass for $85, and it comes with a bunch of perks that make it very worthwhile.
A list of fees and pass info is available at the DVCA site.
I'll admit that if I hadn't been confronted about the fees, I would have gone on doing it the free-way. But now with the plastic card in my wallet, I feel a bit more ownership over the health of the valley. I consider it an investment in a healthy lifestyle.
[Photo (above) taken from the Sawmill Trail, DVCA, Sunday, November 18, 2007]