In response to the increasing use and concerns regarding impact on the natural environment in Copeland Forest, the CFFA has established a Trail Committee. The primary function of the Trail Committee is to develop a Trail Plan to consider and balance environmental sensitivities and desired recreation experiences in the Forest.
A survey was undertaken to help the Committee better understand how the Copeland Forest trails are being used, what users most value about the trails, and any concerns forest users may have. The survey was advertised on-line including social media and posters were put out at various locations including at the main trail heads. The survey was available from late May to early July 2022. The survey including about twenty questions including some open ended questions.
The following provides a high level summary of the responses. The responses to the questions are also presented graphically after this summary. The survey responses including the suggestions are being considered by the Trail Committee in the process to develop a Trail Plan for Copeland Forest. It is noted that the comments made in this summary are those who completed the survey. They are not the comments of CFFA or the Trail Committee.
Who Completed the Survey?
About 225 surveys were completed. We thank those that took the time to complete the survey. In terms of where the survey respondents live, 89 (40%) live locally and if Barrie/Orillia/Springwater are included, 147 (65%) of the respondents are from the regional area. Most of the respondents are considered as regular users with 144 (64%) using the Forest at least once per week. The respondents also tend to be very familiar with the trail system as 105 (47%) indicated that they do not use a map when in the Forest. The top 3 activities include: Hiking (167 (74%), Mountain Biking (122 (54%), and Nature Appreciation (114/50%). The top three desired experiences when in the forest included: “To be in a natural/wilderness setting”; “To exercise”; and “To do an activity with friends/family”. The Forest is used fairly consistently throughout the year with highest usage in the Spring and Fall.
What People Thought of the Trail System?
When asked what type of trail is most desired, by far the most popular response was narrow trails with some steep features and challenging features. Generally most people have no barriers to using the single-track trails. When asked to rate the condition of the trails, 176 (78%) rated both the single track and double track as Good or Very Good. When asked what issues require attention, 95 (42%) indicated that there were no major issues that need attention. Issues that were identified by other respondents included: shared use conflicts (70 (31%)), erosion (65 (28%)), and trail widening (48 (21%)).
The most popular access points are the P2 Parking Lot and the Horseshoe Resort Nordic Centre.
Summary of Open Ended Questions
The survey also included several open ended questions and a substantial amount of comments and opinions were provided (about 20 pages) which are summarized below:
What trails need improvements?
- Area north-east of where the ponds were before the washout (wet and boggy) and SE area near the old Pine Ridge.
- The following trails were identified as have eroded/widened sections which are in need of work: Five Point trails (Mile High and Copeland Downhill), Purple Star, Left Bank/Ridge, Achy Breaky, Michele’s Special.
General Trail System Improvements
- Too many intersections. The most popular single-tracks are excellent and should remain, however the short “connectors” make things confusing.
- Don’t over manage a good thing. Much respect to the trail crew that do maintain the trails as they are in great shape. Minimal corridor trimming of overgrowth areas could be considered.
- While blowing the leaves off the trails helps to make the trails and rocks/roots more visible, it is contributing to trail widening.
- Some trails don’t make much sense, have too many switch backs, not good flow for biking.
- Need for re-narrowing of widened trails, fix erosion issues, get rid of alternate line choices, shut down muddy trails or increase drainage, one way signage for downhill specific trails, keep trails technical and difficult.
- Trails too close to water edges encourages widening and people sliding down fragile slopes to satisfy curiosity.
- Possibly closing sections of trails during wet weather/early season to protect against further erosion. Avoid use by horses/bikers on steep sections during wet weather/when frost is coming out.
- For existing trails, just because they already exist, doesn’t mean their in a good location – reroute / close.
- Limit the number of trails. There are more then enough trails right now. Education from knowledgeable source to recommend when erosion potential is a risk.
- I would love to see a community clean up initiative once a year at least.
- Horses: There were many comments received regarding the use of single track trails by horses. There is concern that use of the single track trails by horses is causing excessive erosion problems and there are safety concerns with bikes coming downhill. It was commented that horses leave gouges in the trails, particularly when the trails are wet. Several people suggested that horses should not be permitted on the steeper single track trails and they should be signed appropriately. It was suggested that double track trails are more appropriate for horses.
- Litter: Litter, particularly near the parking lots was identified as a key problem. Questions related to waste containers were raised. Related to litter is dog waste and dog waste bags. People should not be leaving their bags of dog waste along the trail.
- Heavier Use: Much more use of trails in last 5 years. Trails are becoming wider, more eroded in many areas. More areas where soil is turning to sand due to loss of organic material. Now seeing e-bikes and downhill mountain bikes causing straightening of trails, more rutting from skidding, resulting in the changing of the tight twisting technical trails.
- Commercial Use: It was expressed by some that the Forest should not be used for large organized events and commercial use.
- There tends to be general agreement that signage in the forest should be kept to a minimum.
- That the maps should include the single track trails on them.
- Needs to be some explanation of “right-of-way” among the various trail users.
- Consider designating/signing certain trails for certain uses.
- That there be directional signage on some trails.
- Would be nice to have trails marked that link up for ‘loops’ and ’roundtrips’ of certain length (30 min, 60 min etc.).
- Post Trail Etiquette signage to educate users and reduce mishaps.
- Signage during the X-country ski season advising where people should walk. Who has permission to use what trails.
Copeland Forest Management
- Request to understand what the relationship between Horseshoe Ski and snowshoe trails that are with Copeland as the signage implies ownership.
- We need to emphasize that the Mandate of the CFFA is to CONSERVE THE NATURAL INTEGRITY of the Copeland Forest while facilitating compatible recreational uses. NO more new trails need to be created or resurrected!
- As the popularity of Copeland Forest increases the CFFA, Horseshoe Resort, and MNR will need to become more involved in maintaining a balance between multi-use recreational activities and the environment.
- The area deserves more active management.
“A wonderful community resource.”
“Copeland is good because it is a more untamed environment.”
“I would accept restricted access if necessary to prevent over-use.”
“Don’t need trails to be perfect (been here 50 yrs.) when there were no trails … so nice when things look wild/ natural ….that’s the BEST!”
“It is a wonderful place and deserves to be protected.”
“This place is a jewel. My hope is through conservation that there will be no major changes. It’s pretty perfect the way it is.”
“Let’s not love the forest to death.”
“It is a privilege, not a right to create a trail in this biodiverse forest.”
“I love the Copeland because I value and seek the stillness and peace of nature. I also seek solitude in the forest. I do NOT want the Copeland to be a tourist destination, nor considered an asset by local commercial businesses. Keep it wild.”
“Keep the difficult trails difficult.”
“I have been in Copeland for over 50 years starting as a regular visitor since I was 14. For the most part, very much same as back then other than use. Do not want to see it become commercialized or over used.”