“A fundamental of community building.”

When he retired to Gabriola twenty years ago, Tom Cameron brought with him experience in conservation and the planning and management of trail systems. Trained as a plant ecologist, Tom worked as a park planner both provincially and nationally, including trail inventory work in Saskatchewan’s Prince Albert National Park and early involvement with the Trans Canada Trail Foundation. Given this professional background, it was a “lovely” fit for him to join GaLTT in the society’s early years.

When Tom became GaLTT’s third president in 2010, he was also the chairperson for the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee for Electoral Area B, thus donning a double hat that reflected and further supported his commitment to Gabriola’s trails. Given his background in parks management, one of Tom’s particular interests was to improve links with governing bodies, “those organizations that have the capability to make things happen”—from the Islands Trust, through the regional district to the provincial and national parks—to “work hand in hand with all of them” to sustain and enhance protected spaces and trails on Gabriola.

The photo shows a newspaper clipping from February 24th, 2005. The headline is "Big trailwork turnout for GaLTT" and the text describes a trail workparty in Cox Park.

Tom recalls that some of the first trails GaLTT was involved with—in the Descanso/Cox area and the 707—had been ridden in by keen off-road cyclists, and so in those early years, GaLTT members “would joke about carrying pruning shears in their back pockets”. He helped lay out a connecting trail in Cox Community Park, and fondly remembers the family trail-building work bees, with even young children pitching in to move rocks. Tom identifies GaLTT’s role in this history as “a fundamental of community building”.

Indeed, Tom’s passion for trails centres on the importance of connectivity and the benefits to community. He emphasises that he “always saw trails as the way to link a community” and that “walkable and cyclable communities are healthier communities.” In his first President’s report, Tom celebrated GaLTT’s role in helping establish a trail network from “Drumbeg to Descanso” (apparently also a motto on a T-shirt at the time!).

With these key values of community, access and connection, Tom and his wife became among the first landowners to hold a licence for a trail located on their property. The trail licence formally permits “public use with the understanding that the trail will be maintained and insured by GaLTT.” Tom quips that they were preceded in this by the Cornishes, a couple who were both lawyers, so he and Charlotte figured it would be safe to proceed, and in fact, they’ve never had any problems as licence holders. Further, as staunch supporters of GaLTT’s Nature Stewards program, the Camerons have signed the pledge to conserve and enhance wildlife habitat and biodiversity on their land, because “conservation of the natural environment” is at the heart of their love for Gabriola.

Tom remains a member of GaLTT and continues to be active on committees. He hopes that going forward, GaLTT will increase its focus on accessibility, noting that with “our aging population, with wheelchairs and walkers,” beach and trail accessibility are significant challenges, and adds, “we could do a lot better.” Ultimately, Tom believes GaLTT’s most important role is to lead and inspire the community, from fundraising for land acquisition, to continuing to enhance connectivity and support the fundamental merits of conservation.

The photo shows a group of people with wheelbarrows full of dirt on a forested trail.
Charlotte and Tom Cameron (left rear) working on Cox Park trails.

We’re celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a series of posts capturing the reflections and perspectives of GaLTT past presidents. Thanks so much to Trish Matson for conducting the interviews and writing these articles. Watch for more in coming months!

Tags: , , , , Categories: History, NewsPublished On: March 19, 2024

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