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Beth Gilhespy Side Trail Story
Beth Gilhespy  Side Trail

The Beth Gilhespy Side Trail officially opened on August 3, 2019. It winds through the newly created Barrow Bay Cliffs Nature Reserve a property purchased by the Bruce Trail Conservancy in 2019 with support from generous donors. The acquisition of Barrow Bay Cliffs Nature Reserve was 10 years in the making, and Beth was heavily involved over that time, working closely with members of the Peninsula Club to bring this nature reserve to fruition. It consists of 363 acres of rugged, natural Escarpment landscape; spectacular lookouts, dense forests, and habitat for a long list of wildlife and rare species of flora and fauna. It's acquisition also made it possible to remove over 7 km of the main Bruce Trail from roads. It is 3.4 km and forms a 7.3 km loop with the main Bruce Trail and the John Appleton Trail. This loop is also now designated as a Bruce Trail International Friendship Trail . The Bruce Trail Conservancy currently has 9 Friendship Trails. In each case, a route on the Bruce Trail (main and side trails) and a corresponding route on the international trail have been designated as a Friendship Trail, displaying special signs to mark the partnership. This Friendship Trail is twinned with the Cotswold Way in England. Learn how you can earn a Friendship Trail badge!

Beth Gilhespy

(Excerpted from the Bruce Trail Magazine, Spring 2005?)

Beth's involvement with the Bruce Trail Association began in 1993 when she started volunteering with the Environment committee, but her passion for the Niagara Escarpment began many years earlier.  As a child and then a teen, Beth recalls many trips to the Escarpment-places like Rattlesnake Point, forks of the Credit, Blue Mountain and Beaver Valley.

" I was lucky enough to have a mother that liked to get out and explore the countryside, and a high school geography teacher that inspired me to love landscapes and geology. The Niagara Escarpment in particular was a mystical place for me during my teens, especially the deep valleys like Forks of the Credit and Devil's Glen.  The Niagara Escarpment is still a magical place to me, all these years later!"

Beth grew up in Toronto and moved to Guelph in 1983 to attend university, and in 1988 she graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Physical Geography with a minor in Geology.  She later received her M. Sc. from the same university in 1998, after marrying and having 2 sons. 

Volunteer work with the BTA has been a priority for Beth and has included 12 years on the Environment Committee (4 years as chair) , and 2 years on the Association Board as the Caledon Hills club Appointee.  Many of you will also know Beth from the successful geoplogy hikes she organizes and leads as fundraisers for the Escarpment Legacy Campaign. " The geology hikes are one of the highlights of my work with the BTA.  It's been great to meet so many people who love landscapes and the Escarpment."  In July 2004 Beth began working in a new capacity for the BTA- as Acting Executive Director. Beth was confirmed by the Board as Executive Director in December 2004. She remained in that position until 2018. 

"The Bruce Trail and protection of the Niagara Escarpment have been my passion, as has been my work connecting people to the land through hikes, our land acquisition program, donor tours and events, and so much more. Under my watch we raised more than $33 million to preserve 6,500 acres of land and secure and support our other programs. I’m proud of what I’ve done, and I’m sorry to be leaving my job. But my passion for the Bruce Trail and the work of the Bruce Trail Conservancy remains. The mission – preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever – is close to my heart. I absolutely believe in it, and always will."


Ross McLean wrote a welcome to her as the new Executive Director in the Spring issue of the Rattler, 2005. "What most impresses me is Beth's knowledge and love of the escarpment and the Trail.  This fall, for example, when new trail possibilities were being scouted out in Beaver Valley, Beth drove north to join the team in the field (in spite of six inches of snow on the ground.) She is not content to just "sit in the office". "

 Ross also devoted a story to Beth Kummling, as she was known at that time,  in his book, "50 to Remember". Read Beth's Story.

Since 2019, Beth has been the Executive Director of the Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy, an organization that secures funds for the Toronto Zoo endangered species conservation programs. 

She has continued to lead geology hikes, just this summer she conducted a hike  for students at Bruce Peninsula District  School in Lion's Head.

She also recently launched her new book, "Walking Through Time, Exploring Niagara Escarpment Geology in the Beaver Valley Bruce Trail section".  It is available through the BTC online store.

Beth Gilhespy photo.jpg
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