Friday , September 29 2023

Canadian volunteers revive Saba’s trail network

The Daily Herald reports that Canadian volunteers have been rotating on Saba since February, expecting completion of their annual hiking trails maintenance work in April. Their work not only revamped the entire trail network but extended it with two additional new trails that open up forgotten corners of Saba to residents and visitors alike.

From left: Canadian nature trails volunteers Ivan Petrov, Ingrid Gerlofsma, Albert Bonneveld, Shirley Bonneveld, Gerry Gerlofsma and Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) Trail Manager James Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Ivan Petrov)
From left: Canadian nature trails volunteers Ivan Petrov, Ingrid Gerlofsma, Albert
Bonneveld, Shirley Bonneveld, Gerry Gerlofsma and Saba Conservation Foundation
(SCF) Trail Manager James Johnson. (Photo courtesy of Ivan Petrov)

So far, the volunteers succeeded to clear and fix the Tara Ground trail, the Maskehorne Hill trail, the Parish Hill (aka Paris) trail, Kelbey’s Ridge, the west end of the North Coast Trail up to Mary’s Point and the stretch between the Sulphur Mine and All Too Far trails.

The Canadian volunteer programme was started by John Anderson, Tom van het Hof and James Johnson and is now in its 19th year. Canada’s Bruce Trail Conservancy first offered assistance in trail mapping and maintenance 1996-1998, and has brought in large groups of passionate volunteers annually.

This year, frequent visitors Ingrid and Gerry Gerlofsma together with first-timers Albert and Shirley Bonneveld from Walkerton, Ontario led the groups. Among fresh volunteer reinforcements were Liesha Mayo-Bruinsma, Anda Bruinsma, Barry Turner and Ivan Petrov, who are all avid hikers and members of Ottawa’s Alpine Club of Canada.

Due to over-growing vegetation and the steep terrain, Saba’s extensive trail network requires substantial regular maintenance, something Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF) Trail Manager James Johnson attempts on his own yearround. The Canadian volunteers have been his untiring support over the years, doing heavy work such as creating stone steps, removing large boulders and securing passage in areas of loose earth, where natural erosion occurs. With such support the network is expanding with two new trails which will soon be featured in a revamped trail map to be published by SCF. Both are former paths which disappeared and were reclaimed by nature and were only vaguely remembered through oral accounts. The first addition is a short side-trail from Sandy Cruz to a natural fresh rainwater reservoir. This trail will be featured as a short day-hike destination and future work will extend it further as an alternative route up to Mt. Scenery. The volunteers wished that there would be local  Sabans interested to assist them in maintaining this key tourist attraction, but even the persons that are convicted to provide Community Service are of the opinion that this work to to tough for them.

The second new trail follows a forgotten path which used to connect Mary’s Point and Well’s Bay to The Bottom. This trail features some of the most impressive local architectural ruins, including foundations of the two early settlements Cow Pasture and Middle Island.

Jan Jansen from the Netherlands and Saba residents Paul Fleuren, Louis Daws and Roger King assisted the Canadians in transforming this long forgotten path into an easily accessible trail. Great efforts went into benching out heavily eroded steep slopes that traverse this extensive trail, clearing vegetation and boulders and adding stone steps. The result is an enjoyable and less hazardous trail which now allows one to rediscover the forgotten settlements of Saba’s west coast.

Additional work on this uncovered trail will continue mid-April as the decades of neglect have taken a toll on the trail. Once completed with trail markers, hikers may enjoy a trail from The Ladder almost to Well’s Bay. Official names for these trails have not been established yet.

Ivan Petrov and Med School student Liesha Mayo-Bruinsma of Canada successfully completed a 15 kilometres, nine-hour circumnavigation hike of the island connecting all existing trails and the new west coast addition. The two hikers believe this to be the first time this linkage is achieved as a day-hike and propose naming the linked route “The Diamond Ring,” because it wraps around the island with astonishing views of Diamond Rock from Mary’s Point.

Ed. Saba News: On April 2, 2014 part of the text was updated following suggestions of the author, Ivan Petrov.

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One comment

  1. As a long time Canadian volunteer on the Saba trails, I’m very pleased to see that the project is still running. An interesting side benefit to the project is the number of previous volunteers who still return to Saba as vacationers, and the economic benefit that brings to the island. These people are also volunteer ambassadors for the Unspoiled Queen. I haven’t been back for a few years but I do plan to return in 2016 and I am looking forward to hiking the trails both old and new, and diving in your pristine waters.

    Congratulation Ingrid; keep this wonderful project going!