By Liam Waterman, GHTC Volunteer
The Torrance Creek Bridge is a moderately sized wooden plank bridge spanning a stream located on section 1 of the Guelph Hiking Trail Club (GHTC)’s Radial Line Trail (RLT), shortly after the trailhead at the Barber Scout Camp parking lot. The bridge was replaced during the summer of 2017 as part of a larger building project which also saw the installation of a nearby 48 foot long section of boardwalk.1 The project was devised the prior spring season, when GHTC members noticed that erosion on the banks of Torrance Creek had seriously impacted the structural integrity of the existing wooden bridge located there.2 Replacing the bridge offered an occasion to also fix the wet condition of the trailhead, which frequently flooded early in the year due to the presence of a number of groundwater springs nearby. Several previous efforts to deal with the wetness of this section, which included laying down a repurposed section of fencing and several concrete blocks, had not been fully successful at taming this flooding. The installation of these new structures offered a more effective solution and has made this section of trail easy to traverse all year round.
The Torrance Creek Bridge and nearby boardwalk were constructed over the course of two separate work parties organized in late August of 2017. The first of these entailed the construction of the bridge itself. This new bridge was made to be significantly longer than the previous; John Fisher, now president of the GHTC, recalls that the toughest part was finding stringers that were the correct length. The new bridge utilized the same design as the original, with a pair of 6 x 6 inch planks serving as stringers, across which were laid a number of pressurized decking boards. Fisher was responsible for ordering lumber for the project, which was sourced from the nearby Guelph Building Supply at the corner of Maltby and Victoria. Bringing materials to location was made relatively easy by the close proximity of the parking lot for the Barber Scout Camp, which allowed lumber and nails to be driven almost directly to the creek. For the process of constructing the bridge itself the GHTC received the assistance of a number of student athletes from the University of Guelph Running Club. This group continues to be a frequent user of this section of the RLT, commonly passing through it to loop around onto Cooks Mill Road. With the help of these student athletes the bridge was promptly completed.
The construction of the boardwalk was finished during the second work party. This was a relatively complicated process compared to the construction of the bridge itself. In order to avoid the section most subject to spring flooding, the GHTC decided that part of the trail would have to be rerouted westward on to higher ground.3Moving the trail involved clearing the area of any plants and foliage; this was accomplished with the help of Kissing Bridge Trail coordinator Mike Curtis, who brought his chainsaw. Again, students from the University of Guelph Running Club came to assist with the construction work on the boardwalk. Like the Torrance Creek Bridge, the boardwalk utilized a relatively standard design, with 2 x 6 inch treads, 36 inches in length, laid across 6 x 6 inch stringers.4The ends of the boardwalk were also raised with sand and gravel. Many GHTC volunteers also helped with this process, including Jim Hoare, John Fisher, Dave Hull, and section leader Steve Mercer. Once the boardwalk itself was put in place, about 60 feet of the existing trail were also reinforced and raised, using paving stones along with additional sand and gravel.5 This was intended to help prevent the section from flooding in the future. This marked the end of construction on the trailhead at the Barber Scout Camp in 2017.
Once these work parties were finished, John Fisher wrote a brief article for the GHTC’s newsletter detailing the outcome of the project. Since then, no maintenance has been required on these structures, and they have continued to work to allow recreational users to easily pass through this section of trail. Though not necessarily the most storied or elaborate of the GHTC’s connective structures, the history of the Torrance Creek Bridge and the nearby boardwalk provide a good example of the kind of the year-to-year work that the GHTC undertakes to keep the trails safe and easily traversable for the public.
1. Fisher, John. “Barber Scout Camp Trailhead Improvement,” Guelph Hiking Trail Club Newsletter 45, no. 3 (2017): 8, https://issuu.com/doberman_xy/docs/2017-07.ghtc_45_3.
2. Most of the information in this article came from an in-person interview with John Fisher in September 2023.
3. Fisher, John. “Barber Scout Camp Trailhead Improvement,” Guelph Hiking Trail Club Newsletter 45, no. 3 (2017): 8, https://issuu.com/doberman_xy/docs/2017-07.ghtc_45_3.