The Ganaraska Region Conservation Authority (GRCA) has announced the Ganaraska Forest will remain closed until September 30, due to damage sustained from the May 21, 2022 derecho storm.
The Ganaraska Forest is southern Ontario’s largest forest at 11,000 acres (4,452 hectares), straddling Northumberland and Peterborough counties, Kawartha Lakes, and Durham Region. May’s derecho storm was the largest natural disaster to affect the Ganaraska Forest since it was established in 1947.
According to the GRCA, the storm resulted in more than 600 acres (250 hectares) of tree blowdown, affecting main trail access points and systems within the West Forest next to Boundary Road and Porter Road, as well as the Central Forest trailhead located at the Ganaraska Forest Centre.
There are also isolated blowdown locations scattered throughout the West and Central forests affecting various trail systems, which are popular destinations for ATV and dirt bike riders.
“The GRCA knows how much the Ganaraska Forest means to the local community and recreational users that come from across Ontario and out of province,” says Linda Laliberte, GRCA’s chief administrative officer and secretary-treasurer, in a media release.
“The GRCA is committed to reopening recreational trails in the Ganaraska Forest to recreational use. Everyone’s continued cooperation, understanding, and patience is appreciated.”
While GRCA staff continue to clear affected areas along the 600 kilometres of trails in the forest, many trails remain impassable with hazards along the sides of trails including overhead hangers. The GRCA says it cannot open certain trail sections while others remain closed because of various recovery operations taking place throughout the forest.
Additional high-wind events have also occurred since the storm, causing more downed trees on trails already cleared. Because of the unstable environment in the forest, high-wind events are causing more trees to fall than is normal.
While the East Forest was not as severely affected by the storm, it will remain closed as the East Forest does not have the capacity or the parking areas to accommodate the pressures of recreational use. Tree Top Trekking Ganaraska, whose courses are in a small area on the southern edge of the forest, continues to operate as does the Ganaraska Forest Centre, which is operating by appointment only.
Another reason for the ongoing forest closure are multiple logging operations in the West and Central Forests that began mid-July and will continue into the fall.
Along with regular annual harvest operations, salvage harvest operations of storm-damaged trees will be taking place along trails. As is normal practice, trails within and near logging operations are closed or restricted for recreational use.
Recovery efforts are being managed by the GRCA’s five full-time staff and four summer contract staff, assisted by staff from the Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority, the Rideau Valley Conservation Authority, and Northumberland County Forest.
Because most of the trail-clearing work is dangerous and complicated, the GRCA is currently not seeking volunteers from the public to assist with the recovery.
“Many of the downed tree situations include very dangerous spring poles, cracked, and/or unusually compressed trees,” explains GRCA forest recreation technician Ed Van Osch. “GRCA staff and contractors are highly trained professionals with many years of experience and are equipped to deal with hazardous forestry situations.”
The GRCA says it will consider volunteer opportunities as recovery efforts continue.
Due to the forest closure, the GRCA will extend Ganaraska Forest memberships purchased between June 1, 2021 and May 21, 2022 for an additional 12 months from the original membership expiry date.
Those with cross country ski memberships that expired during the closure (between May 21, 2022 and the reopening date) will receive a six-month hiking membership.
For updates on recovery efforts, visit the GRCA on Facebook at facebook.com/GanaraskaFC.