Over the past 5 years, WLCT has been honored to facilitate the public’s connection to the land at Westport Woods Conservation Park (formerly the St. Vincent de Paul Camp) through a variety of experiences.

Most experience the property by walking the trail system. Many long-time visitors were the original “blazers” of the trails. We have since blazed new trails, expanding everyone’s experience.

We invest a lot of time in thinking about trails, trail experience, and trail expansion. We consider the following as key aspects of our decision-making process.

Mapping: computer time

We start by drawing the ideal route on a map in our GIS software. The software allows WLCT staff to view different data layers such as:

  • Habitat
  • Wetland or water resources
  • Major geological changes
  • Gradient changes
  • And more…

Ground truthing: where our feet meet the potential trail!

Data layers in GIS can be helpful, but nothing beats on-the-ground exploration to get a true picture of the new trail area.

  • Getting outside and exploring the unknown, or even an area with which we are less familiar, is the important next step
  • Being on the ground helps us determine possible challenges in a potential trail route
    • Understanding how bodies move on the land tells us how we might need to construct the new trail;
    • how we will plan accommodations to make the trail easier
    • and how we will need to communicate what type of trail it will be
  • Not all new trails will be easy to traverse, but that is not a reason to hold back on blazing them!

Blazing and Cutting- Trail Team Time

  • Staff flag the route and our irreplaceable Trail Team begins the process of cutting the trail
  • Reviewing goals and outcomes with the Trail Team is key to creating a meaningful new trail
  • We are always mindful of removal of native plants, disturbing as little as possible that is healthy in the forest
  • We reuse felled trees for bog bridging or edging is needed

Invite visitors

  • Inviting visitors to a property to use new the trail is our first form of feedback. Often times we use these initial visits to make minor alterations or improvements
  • With the new trails at Westport Woods, we will need to take into account “difficulty” level for traversing the new system, as some of the areas are naturally rocky and lend themselves to a NH-like trail experience
  • Temporary signs go up to test the user experience and refine the need for specific signage for clarity in some areas
  • Lastly, we install more permanent signs and finish a new trail map

Much goes into the creation of a new trail experience and we hope this sheds light on the thoughtful process we undertake to make it happen.

Not all of WLCT’s trails are easily traversable due to terrain and other factors, but we are working towards providing further access for all as we expand. Our stonedust pathways into the forest at Westport Woods are the latest continuing to invite everyone in our community onto a trail–we can’t wait to expand these as well as our trails into the deep forest.