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New signs enhance NOTL heritage trail experience

The Goettler Family Foundation made a generous donation, and environmentalist wrote the content for the signs, explaining the landscape the trail traverses.

On a sunny afternoon this past Monday, representatives from town staff, the Heritage Trail Committee and members of the Goettler family assembled around one of six newly installed permanent interpretive signs along the Upper Canada Heritage Trail.

The signs, meant to enhance users’ experience, showcase unique facts and history about the local area.

This initiative was made possible thanks to the generous donation from the Goettler Family Foundation and Owen Bjorgan, a Niagara-on-the-Lake local who wrote the content for the signs.

“Many community members use the Heritage Trail daily, and I am proud to see this addition come to life,” said Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa.

The easy-to-read signs cover a wide range of information about the local area, such as nationally rare trees and rare and interesting wildlife, Niagara waterways, and the history of the Heritage Trail and railroad.

Bjorgan’s content brings attention to the unique current and historical landscape that the trail traverses. “The Niagara region has all kinds of fascinating and nationally unique features right under our very feet,” said Bjorgan.

The signs explain the rich biodiversity of the Carolinian forest zone and pollinator gardens along the trail. “We’re very lucky to have that right in our own backyard. I think that often gets overshadowed and overlooked by many other wonderful features of the area,” said Bjorgan.

An ancient lake bed under several feet of water used to run the length of most of the Heritage Trail, explained Bjorgan. “That’s why we have such fertile farmland that hikers, walkers and bikers enjoy going through to this day.”

“The fun challenge of it (writing the content for the signs) was trying to convey all of that interesting information in a succinct, inclusive way,” he said.

“If you can convey the information accurately in an exciting kind of way, it creates a greater sense of place for visitors and locals alike. The greater sense of place people have, the more inclined they are to talk about it, spread the word, care for it and revisit it,” Bjorgan said.

The signs are located between the John Street entrance and Charlotte Street, and Charlotte Street and East West Line.

“These signs are a great way to learn and explore while using the Heritage Trail to stay active,” said interim CAO Bruce Zvaniga.