Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hike Ontario Summit 2011

2011 Summit Report

The Summit was held in Elliot Lake from Friday, September 30 to Sunday, October 2. It was hosted by the Coureur de Bois club of the Voyageur Trail Association.

Approximately 45 people attended the pub night on Friday at the Fireside Grill

66 registrants participated on Saturday with 85 people attending the evening dinner featuring entertainment by “The Men of Song”. The following 17 trail associations were represented: The Avon Trail, Bayfield River Valley Trails, The Bighead River Heritage Association, The Bruce Trail Conservancy, The Elgin Trail, The Elora Cataract Trailway, The Ganaraska Hiking Trail Association, The Grand Valley Trails Association, The Guelph Hiking Trail Club, The Humber Valley Heritage Trail Association, Huronia Trails and Greenways, The Maitland Trail, The North Simcoe Rail Trail, The Oak Ridges Trail Association, Rideau Trail Association, Thames Valley Trail, and The Voyageur Trail. Additionally about 10 trail associations set up displays around the room which often formed a locus for discussions and interactions between trail association members.

The morning began with the Hike Ontario Annual meeting where the Annual Report that Angela Liu had assembled so effectively plus president and treasurer’s reports were delivered. The slate of executive officers was also presented.

The Summit was opened with by greetings from Hike Ontario President Bill Wilson, Coureur de Bois president Phill Barnes and the mayor of Elliot Lake.

The first session featured a virtual walk across Ontario’s volunteer managed pedestrian trails. Luis Costa had coordinated pictures submitted by approximately 20 trail associations and clubs. Jerry Bertrand and Gerard Jean gave quick overviews of their afternoon topics.

Bill Wilson presented Volunteer of the Year awards to Pat Aplevich (Grand Valley Trails Association), Alan Day (Coureur de Bois Club of the Voyageur Trail) and to Robert Groves (Rideau Trail Club) who accepted on behalf of Elizabeth Mason.

Wendy Hoernig presented the Virginia Johnson Award to David Francis for his outstanding service to Hike Ontario over 20 years.

Participants enjoyed a Submarine lunch that Phill Barnes had arranged for.

11 presentations were made in three sessions as follows:

Session 1 1:00 – 1:40 p.m.

A Elliot Lake Experience – Working Together Jerry Bertrand

A Hike Leadership Gerry Jean

A Geo caching Luis Costa

A Volunteer Recruitment and Management Tom Friesen

Session 2 1:50 – 2:30 p.m.

B Challenges of Building Maintaining a Long Distance Trail Phill Barnes

B Living with Wildlife Jim Johnston

B Risk Management Plans Tom Friesen/Bill Wilson

B Encouraging New Canadians to Hike Daniela Jameson

Coffee/Nutrition Break

Session 3 3:00 – 3:40 p.m.

C Hiking Experiences in Elliot Lake (Wilderness Camping ) Alan Day

C Trail Maintenance Wendy Hoernig C Running Special Events on Trails (Oxfam Trail Walker/Adventure Relay) D. Francis/S. Butcher

On Sunday morning over 35 people attended one of three hikes offered in the Elliot Lake area. Trained hiker leaders took people on hikes lasting two to three hours.

General Comments:

1. The program was planned and carried out with participation of the local organizer Phill Barnes and Tom Friesen on behalf of Hike Ontario with input from others locally and across the province using GOTOMEETING, e-mail and telephone. This was generally effective and cost efficient. A division of labour was performed with Phill Barnes and his committee handling the social and local arrangements and Hike Ontario handling registration and provincial advertising. Programming was handled jointly. It was a total pleasure to work with Phill and earlier with Alan Day as their “Can do attitude” was a delight and highlight of the weekend. We had good cooperation from the staff at the Hampton Inn (apart from the person who cancelled some of the rooms we had reserved for Summit participants).

2. Participants came from far and wide across Southern Ontario and there was great participation from the Coureur de Bois Club who provided wonderful hospitality for all of the events. The participation of 17 trail associations and hiking clubs was emphasized by the virtual hike across the province coordinated by Luis Costa. There was even some healthy competition for the honour of which association had the second longest trail and the most number of past presidents in attendance. We missed an opportunity to have more northern representation from clubs apart from the Voyageur Club and the participation of clubs apart from the local club was wide but not deep. (The maximum number of members from non-host trail associations was 4.) I suspect that most reps are not giving the Summit the advertisement to their members that we would hope for. The other lesson is that we could improve our advertising to non club and trail association members. Given that participants could be spending up to $1000 to travel and get accommodation and food, the numbers present could be deemed a success. I note that this is the most participants I have seen at any Summit I have attended (since 2007).

3. Hike Ontario offered a free Safe Hiker program on Friday as a way to attract and thank local participants. It was a good day with a great exchange of information. This did not cost more than $5 for each of the 10 participants as the instructors (Dave Potten and Tom Friesen) waived their honorarium and travel was largely paid for by TVTA.

4. Registration was $15 (although an earlier rate was paid by a few people of $10 and this was honoured as we were not able to get updates posted to the website in a timely manner). This amount covered our costs with the proviso that we budget $1000 to pay for the costs of the Annual meeting and Summit (reports, awards, room rental, food, honorarium and speaker gifts, etc.) .

5. Hike Ontario did offer a very modest mileage claim opportunity which only a few people have participated in (to my knowledge).

6. Registration went relatively smoothly with local volunteers managing the desk and lists plus the process facilitated by Hike Ontario. There were four ways that people were registering – on line by using a Google docs form that David Francis set up, by e-mail through info@hikeontario.com or directly to me, by speaking directly to Phill Barnes or myself, and by snail mail. An improved way to acknowledge registration would have been beneficial. As always there are people who say they will come who do not and walk ups. These provide frustration for organizers who need to get numbers but tend to cancel each other out numerically. As always people tend to ignore deadlines and a number of people show up with spouses whose attendance can be partial (only for awards or social events).

7. The program was a joint effort and seemed to be appreciated. We used local talent and resources as well as provincial strengths that Hike Ontario could provide in almost 50/50 split. The table talk format of the last 3 years seemed to function smoothly (although the morning presentations were not as sharply focused as in previous years). The lack of breakout rooms in the facility that was used did create some noise distractions but my observation was that the groups seemed engaged and participation was wide-ranging.

8. Due to the urging of Ron Scanlan (in the model of the Bruce Trail Conservancy) we have begun the process for the 2012 Summit well before the 2011 Summit occurred. This allowed us to have Pat Aplevich extend an invitation for Summit 2012 in Kitchener Waterloo and note areas of functioning that may be improved upon for the next event. Given a dynamic and effective committee and a large population base that is centered with an hour of thousands of trail users, and easily a dozen clubs, I have no doubt this event will be done exceptionally well.

9. We decided last year that the Summit coordination was not a task we wanted to task our president with so the Past President and the Vice President could take the lead role in equal parts with the local organizer(s). I would invite anyone from the Hike Ontario executive to jump in so this is not a one or two person operation from the Hike Ontario side.

10. We were greatly hampered by our website and e-mail problems of the spring and summer and having the Summit so closely after the summer hiatus people seem to take was also a challenge.

11. In the past we have had evaluations of the day (although the participation rate has often been low). This may have had some benefit but within the small number of people engaged in doing the tasks I decided not to add this form creation and collection to my “to do” list.

12. I would be happy to hear of other comments, positive and negative in order that that Summit 2012 will be another positive experience for its participants.

Respectfully submitted

Tom Friesen