Janice McClelland & Don Blok
"Sharing nature along the Trail with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren was, and is, an important and happy part of our family life. And the friends we have made through the Bruce Trail are invaluable. We could not ask for more as we age and our perspectives on what’s important in life evolve."
Paul & Pat Beneteau
"It feels good knowing we are helping to preserve this ribbon of wilderness, forever. There is nothing else like the Bruce Trail in Ontario, and very few trails like it in Canada. If we don’t take steps now to secure these precious places, we won’t have them in future."
Gerda & Rudi Tismer
"Gerda and Rudi Tismer were married in Germany in 1950. It was the beginning of a long love story that ended up with a real affection for the Bruce Trail."
Leaving a Legacy – a love story
We met on a Bruce Trail hike in March 1986. Love shone upon us and soon we shared more hikes on the Bruce Trail, in the White Mountains, and in Cape Breton.
The Bruce Trail continued to be an important part of our lives following our wedding in 1988, and through two moves which eventually found us in Erin Township in the Caledon Hills section of the Bruce Trail. As soon as we could raise our noses above the high waters of renovating our old farmhouse in Erin, we began volunteering with the Caledon Hills Bruce Trail Club.
Many more happy Bruce Trail memories were made throughout the 2000s. Don celebrated his 80th birthday in 2005 with friends and family at the Niagara Gorge on a hike led by Beth Gilhespy, then Executive Director. Janice completed the entire Bruce Trail from 2004–2007, in a series of hikes led by volunteers Peter Ellison, and Peter and Judy Leeney, with Don joining in some of the more northerly sections.
In 2011, Janice retired and extended her volunteer activities to include the BTC Board of Directors and from 2013–2015, served as the volunteer President of the Bruce Trail Conservancy.
During our wonderful times on the Trail, and through our deepening involvement, we saw first-hand the enormous contributions that volunteers make towards fulfilling the BTC’s conservation and land maintenance efforts. Like many, our experiences with the Trail have impressed on us the importance of the organization’s mission to preserve a ribbon of wilderness for future generations. We’ve been passionate donors for many years, and we are so proud of the eight beautiful green pins we’ve received that respectively say, “I helped save... Duntroon Crevice Heights, Lawrence Homestead, Fairmount-Webwood Passage, Walter’s Creek, Vanishing Stream, Kemble Wetland, Maple Ridge and Driftwood Cove.”
In 2011 we made the decision to draw up our wills and included the Bruce Trail Conservancy as one of our beneficiaries. We’ve since reviewed our wills and made a change to ensure that, balancing all interests, the Bruce Trail Conservancy had a more substantial portion of whatever our humble estate will be. Our lawyer advised us regarding different ways of providing for others and we confirmed the best way for us.
Sharing nature along the Trail with children, grandchildren and great grandchildren was, and is, an important and happy part of our family life. And the friends we have made through the Bruce Trail are invaluable. We could not ask for more as we age and our perspectives on what’s important in life evolve.
Including the Bruce Trail Conservancy in our wills is not only a way for us to say that nature matters to us in this part of Ontario, it’s also a way to say thank you to the Bruce Trail Conservancy for making our lives more worthwhile and endowing us with a broad circle of friends who have greatly enriched life’s experiences.
Building the Trail for the future
My adventures with the Bruce Trail date back to the early 1970s, shortly after my wife, Pat, and I moved to Burlington as newlyweds. In my effort to get to know people, I joined a local photography club. A group of us were on a photo excursion taking pictures of steam trains running through the Dundas Station. The Trail ran past the station, and the white blazes caught my eye. I had discovered the Bruce Trail.
After that, I spent a lot of time exploring the Trail with my camera, and soon joined the Bruce Trail Association (as the Bruce Trail Conservancy was then called) as one of the early members in 1973. Fellow member and volunteer Ian Reid, a respected trail builder, inspired me to get more involved in Trail maintenance initiatives. In those early days, there was no money. We were building bridges, boardwalks and steps with found materials and we were hand painting signs. Over the next 34 years, I was involved with the maintenance and development of the trail in Iroquoia as a Trail Captain, a Zone Coordinator, the Trail Director and as Project Coordinator, as well as the BTC Sign Coordinator working with all nine clubs.
As Project Coordinator, I had the pleasure of recruiting and working with many dozens of dedicated volunteers on the hundreds of work parties and projects we organized. Three of the most important were, the half-kilometre gravel causeway between Crawford Lake and Rattlesnake Point, the new trail and dual-span bridge to Tiffany Falls and my earliest project, the galvanized steel bridge over Bronte Creek near Cedar Springs.
In 1999, seven of us got together and hiked the end-to-end into the year 2000. We weren’t really hikers. We were trail builders. The experience was amazing, and what stood out was how different the scenery was across the nine sections. There was always something new to discover, whether it was the wildlife, the plant life, the scenery from the top of Escarpment cliffs, or the serenity of walking along a beach.
The Trail is unique and definitely something that I feel needs to be preserved for the future. We only have to look and see what has happened to our green spaces in the last 10 years to understand the need. There is more pressure than ever before to develop green spaces. The Bruce Trail is critically important to give people, especially those in big cities, a taste of what it’s like to be out in nature.
In 2009, a health scare prompted me to start thinking about what I wanted my legacy to be. Until then, my support of the Trail was largely as a volunteer. Because I was unable to do the physical work anymore, I started thinking about other ways to support the Bruce Trail Conservancy. Pat and I sat down together to discuss which charities were important to us. We both knew we wanted to help the BTC in the future, and decided to include a gift in our wills.
It feels good knowing we are helping to preserve this ribbon of wilderness, forever. There is nothing else like the Bruce Trail in Ontario, and very few trails like it in Canada. If we don’t take steps now to secure these precious places, we won’t have them in future.
I encourage people to review their situation early and explore what is possible within their own plans. If you want to invest in something that will last forever, the work of the Bruce Trail Conservancy is an ideal choice. A secure trail connecting people to a permanently protected Niagara Escarpment will continue to benefit many people for many years to come.
Growing the Bruce Trail Conservation Corridor for Generations to Come
Gerda and Rudi Tismer were married in Germany in 1950. It was the beginning of a long love story that ended up with a real affection for the Bruce Trail. This affection resulted in the largest bequest evergiven to the BTC – over $1 million dollars.
The Tismers immigrated to Canada in the 1950s and made their home in Toronto. Rudi built his own thriving business as a plumber and machine operator, while Gerda worked as a clerk at Sherwood Windows Manufacturing. The couple shared a great and enduring love of the outdoors, from hiking the Bruce Trail to fishing, camping and canoeing. Over the years Rudi developed a real talent for wood carving and especially enjoyed creating lively sculptures of small animals and birds. In the meantime Gerda studied German history, sang German folksongs and learned how to use computers.
When they retired they moved to a new home in St. Catharines to take part in the German community living there. They were long-time members of the Bruce Trail Conservancy, belonging to both the Toronto and Niagara Clubs. The couple had a wonderful life until Rudi developed health issues and had to be moved to a long-term care facility. Rather than live apart, Gerda decided to give up their home and move into the same long-term care facility to be close to Rudi. In early 2015 they celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in the facility’s gardens. Since she was still very active and mobile, Gerda became a well-respected volunteer at the facility and was considered “almost staff”.
Gerda was devastated when Rudi passed away in December 2015. Nevertheless she continued to be active at the facility and was often seen with a book on her walker out in the garden or engaging in spirited conversations with others. Sadly in March 2016 Gerda, too, passed away. The BTC was notified of Gerda and Rudi’s transformative bequest shortly afterwards.
The Tismers’ wonderful legacy contributed toward preserving three new Nature Reserves – Ancient Beach, Dunedin Ravine and Kemble Rock – as well as supporting BTC programs.
Visionary gifts like the one given by the Tismers truly demonstrate the importance and value many people place on the Bruce Trail and the work of the BTC. As grateful benefactor, the BTC is carefully stewarding the land the Tismers helped to protect.