| Oct 23, 2008

Oct 23/08 - Sandi Slater Trail in Meisel Woods

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Feature Article - October 23, 2008 Sandi Slater Memorial Trail - Phase 2By Julie Druker

A ceremony was held at the new bridge in Meisel Woods

There was a special, intimate, emotional gathering and ribbon cutting ceremony that took place in a beautiful but unusual location last Saturday. It happened in the woods surrounding Bass Lake (a.k.a. Beaver Lake) in the middle of a bridge.

The gathering was for the dedication of Phase 2 of the Sandi Slater Memorial Trail in the Meisel Woods Conservation Area, located near the village of Crow Lake.

The cutting of the ribbon at the middle of the newly constructed bridge symbolized the important step of connecting the first section of the trail to the western section that lies beyond the bridge across Scott’s Creek.

Sandi Slater and her husband Joe frequently walked these trails before Sandi’s sudden passing in May 2003.

After Sandi’s death, Joe and their family decided to celebrate her life and memory by constructing a nature trail in her honour.

Joe made two important phone calls, which he remembers,” took a total of five minutes to make”. The first was to family friend and neighbour, Dr. John Meisel, who in September of 2000 donated 120 acres of the land surrounding his home and Bass Lake to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA). The land has since been named in Meisel’s honour and the memorial trail is located on it. Meisel was on board with the project immediately. Joe's second call went out to the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority (RVCA), who agreed to the project as well.

In May of 2003, the Sandi Slater Memorial Fund was set up in conjunction with the Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation and funds were raised that allowed Phase 1 of the project to be completed. The first phase included the building of the parking lot and entrance way to the trail, the purchase of the 40 foot steel beams for the bridge, and the initial breaking of the trail.

Funds for phase 2 were generated by the Greater Kingston Community Foundation and the Davies Foundation to complete the construction of the main bridge, which occurred last fall.

The bridge design, prepared and donated by Graydon Knights, a close friend of the Slater family and a civil engineer by profession, spans more than 40 feet and easily carried the weight of the over 30 people gathered on it for the dedication ceremony.

Joe Slater, his family and a group of close friends and volunteers from the community have done much of the work for the bridge building and the cutting and maintaining of the trails.

Joe and Sandi’s son Jeff has put in countless hours of work into the trail. He also enlisted the help of 25 students of the University of Waterloo swim team, whom he coaches and who spend part of the summer training at Crow Lake. This fit work crew transported the many tonnes of stones that fill the bridge’s two cribs.

The trail is a stunning, 5km walk through forest, rocks, over streams and hills and boasts a number of lookouts, and benches that offer gorgeous views of Bass Lake and the surrounding area.

Phase 3 will be the last and final step in the project. It will involve the construction of a boardwalk at the north end of the lake to complete the loop of the trail where it passes through 200-300 meters of wetlands.

At 11:30 am on October 18, the Slater family, including Sheryl Slater (Joe and Sandi’s daughter from London, England), along with close friends, members of the community, and representatives of contributing organizations, all gathered on the main bridge for the dedication ceremony.

Dr. John Meisel said that Joe Slater has been the driving force behind the project. Meisel concluded by stating that, “Canada is so fantastically rich in beautiful countryside and we must do everything to protect it, preserve it and make it available to people. This kind of enjoyment of what we’ve got can only happen when different kinds of people from the community get involved.”

Joe Slater was introduced by John Miller as the “quarter back for virtually all of the development of the bridge and the trail from labour needs, seeking funding and the trail lay out and construction. No job was too big or too small for Joe to tackle.”

Joe spoke last. He reminisced about the project and thanked all involved along the way.

Jeff Slater later summed up the project when he said, “It’s really a relatively tight group of friends and family who have been able to do this and it’s a real labour of love that we enjoy.” And thanks to the Slater family, Dr. John Meisel, their friends and all of the community associations involved we are all able to enjoy it as well.

Donations can be made to complete phase 3 of the project by making out a cheque to the Sandi Slater Memorial Trail, Charitable Business # 1191 9501 RR0001 and sending it to The Rideau Valley Conservation Foundation, Box 988, Manotick, ON, K4M 1A8.

For anyone wanting to explore the trail, the trail head is located at 1392 Anderson Road North near the the village of Crow Lake.

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