Port Maitland "On the Grand" Historical Association

Port Maitland, Ontario, Canada


Grand Valley Trail Association

william_warnick
By William A. Warnick

Published Oct 10, 2008
in The Dunnville Chronicle


On Saturday, October 4th I met a number of members of the Grand Valley Trail Association (GVTA) as they prepared for a historical information walk; starting from the Port Maitland Lock. After proper introductions and instructions from the walk coordinator eighty year old plus Bill Haartman we set off for Beckley Beach. I found considerable pride in the research and writing I have done over the years. As it was not I who told the history during the walk but Bill Harrtman and a few others, this showed the history is being taken seriously.

When the walk reached the junction of the Grand River and the former Feeder Canal, Bill showed them a place where he felt would be a good site for the GVTA to begin the southerly portion of their walk from the mouth of the Grand River to its source. Currently the GVTA start their most southerly walk from Rock Point Provincial Park and presently have their information cairn there.
As we approached the entrance to Beckley Beach, some apprehension sifted through the air as we were in fear of trespass. Attempts were made to attain written consent to take his group through but Bill had not received a reply. With the overwhelming sensation, “well that’s it for the day folks” prevailing, Don Blunt, a cottage owner at Beckley, who was walking with us invited the group in as his guest. His invite, graciously received, the walk continued with Bill narrating the story of John Newton Beckley the namesake of this summer community. The hike made its way toward the stone breakwall, where they passed the hill once known as “Warnick’s Hill,” now renamed “Chateau Cote.” This physical landmark held some historical geographical significant in this area. In this writer’s, view all of what now is known as Beckley Beach was likely a large sand hill of similar or slightly lesser height. We know that quarrying of sand and gravel took place there for well over one hundred years. This would have removed those hills while leaving a portion along the mouth of the river to continue to shelter the rest from the floods that November will bring off Lake Erie.

The sandy beach near the stone break wall was a bit of a surprise to me as the last time I stood on that beach it was covered with a couple feet of gravel. This day it was mostly sand with only a sprinkling of loose gravel dotting the shore. The walkers continued along the beach noting the cottages as they went. The sand was studied by a group of would be geologist speculating why it seemingly held so much iron like crystals. The group then traveled along to Siddall Rd. thence back to the Feeder Canal passing Innophos Canada Inc. This created some interest! What does this factory make and why is it here? That will take another complete story to tell.

The more hardy walkers continued and crossed the Innophos railway tracks, looking at where the former TH&B station once stood. A bit of history was unfolded here. This building once stood much closer to the mouth of the canal approximately three hundred feet from the river. The old station was once known as the “Robinson House” as was the point forming the mouth of the Feeder Canal. When the railway arrived in 1915/16 the building was moved approximately one thousand feed further up the Feeder Canal and remained there even after the railway had no further use for it. It became the office for Dominion Fertilizer and other industries until their closure and its removal in the late 1990s.

The GVTA began in 1972 at a meeting called by Betty Schneider then a member of the Grand Valley Conservation Foundation. Soon Brantford and Paris formed a trail association extending the trail to Paris. From this early start, more and more people and government services became involved until finally a trail stretches from Rock Point Provincial Park on Lake Erie to Alton at the river’s source.

My view of the walk on Saturday was that there are interested people of all ages who are involved. It became clear that there is a healthy organization and sincere respect of the property borrowed and crossed, from farmers, homeowners, and municipal governments. The members seem to have interest in history, ecology, and wildlife conservation as well as a particular interest in preservation of our current forest and wilderness fields.

To join the GVTA you can contact them at P.O. Box 40068 Waterloo, ON N2J 4V1 or by email at gvta@golden.net and of course by telephone at 519 576-6156. Also, why not visit their website at www.gvta.on.ca ?
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If you have items you wish written about or pictures you would be willing to loan, please drop me a note. Let me know how you feel about these articles.

William (Bill) Arthur Warnick

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