Cottrill Lake Side Trail Story
"A tribute to a friend of the trail"
(This is a reprint of a story written for the Rattler Newsletter in Spring 2002 by the late Ross McLean):
"I first met Gord Cottrill in the mid-1980’s. As a Property Manager for the MNR, he had offered to help us lay out the Trail around Gun Point, a route that today is regarded as one of the most beautiful sections of the Peninsula Bruce Trail. A group of us stumbled through the bush behind him, amazed to see his detailed knowledge of the land.
Our most recent exploration was last fall, just south of Dyer’s Bay on land owned both by the MNR and by a couple who are currently donating their property to the Nature Conservancy. It was a beautiful day of bright sunshine and blue sky as a group from the Peninsula Club joined Gord to explore the land. What I remember most about that day was the sense of fun and the love for the land that we all shared. Afterwards Gord said what all of us had felt: “a day like that in the bush sure beats a day behind a desk in the office.”
Later in the season, I learned that Gord would be retiring at the end of March, 2002, after “putting his heart and soul into protecting the Escarpment”, as well as many other accomplishments. I was both pleased and saddened, pleased for him because of my personal knowledge of how enjoyable retirement can be, yet saddened because I know how much the Escarpment and the Bruce Trail will miss his contribution.
Gord grew up in the Paisley area and was born with a love of the outdoors. From the age of eight he read bird and plant guides, many of which he still has in his library.
For thirty years Gord has worked with the MNR out of their Owen sound office. Initially, he was in forest management, and over 25 years ago reforested hundreds of acres. Today he feels pride when revisiting these sites and seeing the maturing trees (although it makes him feel “like an old fellow” ). Those plantings truly are a “legacy for tomorrow”.
Then in the mid-1980’s Gord was in charge of Cyprus Lake Provincial Park, facilitating the transfer to the national park team. Again, one of my favourite memories is tramping behind him east from High Dump to Rocky Bay to show senior park management what treasures they had been given to care for. Today, in addition to other jobs, Gord’s core business is public lands officer and property manager for the MNR in the area.
Among the accomplishments of which he is most proud is the land acquisition program. When pressed to name his favourite, he responds that “they all matter: all are equally important, …An acre in the Beaver Valley is just as important as any other acquisition.” He does mention, however, that the current negotiations for Cabot Head “are very important” and that this area is the “keystone” of the program. The importance to Gord of land acquisition is the permanency of the achievement: “when land is purchased, its future protections is absolutely guaranteed.”When Gord looks to the future, he is optimistic. “We have done a lot, “ and initiatives such as the Niagara Escarpment Plan and the Conservation Land Tax Incentive Program are very effective in protecting the land. “Our efforts will really show up in the future, more than today.” As development pressures increase, the land that has been acquired becomes very apparent and more valued. “Our efforts are now held in high esteem, and the longer times goes on, the more it will be valued. The whole [public] mentality about public land acquisition has changed gradually over the years…. The public increasingly values the natural heritage we have, especially when they see it first hand.” The key to this success is that “we have stayed with it for so long.”
Throughout his career he has been a strong supporter of the Bruce Trail. He regards the Bruce Trail “as a symbol of health”, both physically and psychologically. Almost twenty years ago he was one of the first recipients of a B.T.A. “In Appreciation” Award. In 2002, between the Devil’s Monument and Dyer’s Bay, a new side trail is being built to visit a gem of an inland lake. This short loop will be called the “Cottrill Lake Side Trail” and is one more “legacy for tomorrow” by which Gord’s contributions will be remembered.Gord concludes a recent letter to some Peninsula BTC members: “Thank you for your friendship and may the results of all our efforts protect the Bruce Trail and the Escarpment forever.”We are all the benefactors of his career of achievements. The Bruce Trail is a result of partnerships- of volunteers, of private landowners, and of public employees. Gord’s contributions have played a significant role in what we have accomplished. We shall miss him in the office, yet I am sure we will continue to see him working to protect our natural heritage. "