Mashkinonje – A New Barrier-free Trail

On a gorgeous September afternoon, as the warm wind sent a wave rippling through the marsh vegetation, the Friends of Mashkinonje officially opened the barrier-free section of Mashkinonje Provincial Park’s trail network. The event marked not just the opening of the trail, but also the successful efforts of many volunteers,

The park has an extensive trail system of over 30km, that traverses the various landscapes of Mashkinonje, including a provincially significant peatland. Located at the western end of Lake Nipissing, Mashkinonje makes a great day trip from both North Bay and Sudbury.

The barrier-free trail starts on the east side of Highway #64 at the Loudon Peatland trailhead, 10 minutes south of the community of Lavigne. The first 600 metres of the trail has been redeveloped, levelled and laid with fine gravel to make a surface that is more welcoming for people who need an even trail with a gentle grade: small children, seniors and especially those in wheelchairs or with strollers. It also has a number of interpretive panels that describe the forest and wetlands that people see during the walk.

The trail includes accessible parking, washrooms, and picnic tables at the trailhead. Several rest stops with benches are located at viewpoints and points of interest along the trail, and an elevated boardwalk crosses a marsh, leading to a lookout platform with an expansive view of the wetland. An interpretive panel explains the adaptations of beavers to their aquatic environment, which is appropriate, as a large beaver lodge sits in the middle of the marsh below.

Creating the new section of trail was the work of many volunteers. At the trail opening, Chuck Miller, Park Superintendent said that “as well as being a very nice trail, it is now accessible to everyone – this is a very inclusive trail that was developed by the local community”. This happened with huge support from the local mayors and their communities, French River and St. Charles; the local business community – Sudbury East and West Nipissing; building materials funded by FedNor; and the physical effort of local school kids from École secondaire de la Rivière-des-française, members of the Friends of Mashkinonje, the park superintendent and Ontario Parks staff. Angela Martin, President of the Friends of Mashkinonje, who coordinated the redevelopment of the trail, thanked everyone for their participation and support for such a worthwhile project.

Prior to the ribbon-cutting, special education students and teachers from École Du Conseil Scolaire Catholique Franco-Nord in nearby Sturgeon Falls, took the trail across the boardwalk to the lookout – everyone seemed to enjoy the trail and being in the great outdoors.