Since the start of the pandemic, Copeland Forest has become more popular as people look for safe and healthy ways to pursue recreational opportunities. With that increased popularity, there has been an accompanying increase in questions about who can access the trails, how and where to access them, and how to safely share the trails during a pandemic.
At 4,400 acres, Copeland Forest has plenty to offer everyone. It is best known for its wide range of single and dual track trails that are a year-round favorite for hikers, equestrians, mountain bikers, nature lovers, hunters and anglers, skiers and snowshoers, trail runners and dog-walkers.
As provincial crown land, the management of this unique uplands forest lies with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forests. Additionally, the forest’s safe and equitable use and conservation is monitored by the volunteer-based Copeland Forest Friends Association. It is their mandate to help “conserve the natural integrity of the Forest while facilitating compatible recreational use.”
As Brad Turner, President of Copeland Forest Friends, points out, “Because of the vast size of the forest, there are numerous opportunities for people to safely, respectfully and responsibly access the trails in the winter months.”
Turner recommends, first of all, that visitors obtain a map of the forest. “We have a map on the Copeland Forest Friends website that people can download and print off or save to your phone.” Additionally, Turner suggests that, for those interested in snowshoeing or hiking, accessing the forest from one of the parking areas off Ingram Road or Line 5 is ideal because these areas provide access to numerous trails and decrease the likelihood of encountering the ski trails that are groomed by Horseshoe Resort. Turner adds, “If you do find yourself on one of the cross-country ski trails, please stay well off to the side where the trails are not track-set out of respect for the skiers.”
Additionally, Copeland has become a favourite location for dog-walkers. However, dog owners are encouraged to keep their dogs under control or on a leash to protect them, other users, wildlife and sensitive plant species.
With concerns about staying safe during the pandemic, Turner cautions that people should only be out with others from their immediate household, to keep a safe distance of a minimum of six feet when passing by another person, and to wear face coverings as much as possible, and especially in the parking areas.
Turner concludes by saying, “By being safe and respectful of others using the trails, we can all enjoy Copeland this winter and reap the many physical and mental health benefits that this special place provides.” At no time has this been more important than now.
For more information about Copeland Forest, including how to become a member of Forest Friends, visit http://www.copelandfriends.ca/.