Exchange: Mahicans Diamond, director of the trail construction team with Hélène Hamel, community coordinator.

When I interviewed Mahicans Diamond earlier this year, I was struck by his deep love of the forest as well as his calm personality. You can see that he derives immense pleasure from working in nature and building quality trails that attract people to the forest. He is a firm believer in the health benefits of the woods.

His work starts in the spring with the planning of the new trails. He literally runs through the forest in order to cover as much new terrain as possible. He gets a feel of the land from the ground up. Then, with the help of maps and the trail foreman, Matthew Cleary, he plots the trail taking into consideration the pitch, the flow of the water after the spring runoff, the trees and vegetation. He avoids ecologically sensitive areas and protects them by keeping the trails well outside these environments.

To avoid crowding, the length of the trails on a property never exceeds the length of the perimeter of that property.

When asked how much longer he will be building the Massawippi Trail he said, “It all depends on the fundraising!” He and the team are happy to keep working until their retirement!

Very little mechanical equipment is used in the building of the trails. Mahicans and Matthew have both trained with other companies that use all techniques from mechanised to hand made. This knowledge allows them to choose the best methods to build the Massawippi Trail with a minimum amount of mechanical intrusions. The must have arsenal of tools include the McLeod, the Pulaski and the Mattock. Funny and strange, these are the real names  for the essential work horses of the trail building team.






Mahicans also prefers to use the materials at hand. Obviously there is a cost savings but there is also an ecological factor. The only foreign material is some lumber used for building the bridges and occasionally the stairs. For example they chose to repurpose old telephone poles to make the stairs near Ethan’s Beach. As he said: “We are stone masons, lumberjacks, carpenters but most of all landscapers” who choose the right materials to make each step enjoyable. The trails are built to last. Mahicans would like his grandchildren to enjoy the results of his labour.

During the summer he hires students to supplement the professional team. The students are trained in the art of trail building. Some outlast the mosquitoes and even come back for a second summer, others move on. Regardless, they all appreciate the time they get to spend in the forest, seeing the wildlife and learning new skills.

Mahicans ends the trail building season in November. When asked what he would be doing over the winter with a big smile he said: “Working on my own house and all the projects I was not able to do during the summer.”

A short French interview with Mahicans is available on our website.

2021 is our 10th anniversary. Events will be held in July and August were you will be able to meet the team. Stay tuned for more details via the website, our newsletter or Facebook.

Information on donations.

The trails are built for you. Your donations, even small ones, are important!
Last month our profile introduced David Rittenhouse who was one of the first trustees of the Massawippi Foundation and Trust.
This month we would like to tell you about Louise Ransom, the very first person to donate her land in order to have it preserved and conserved in perpetuity. She led the charge with her gift of land and also gave money to create an endowment to cover future expenses. She was our FIRST HERO!

Louise Ransom is a New Yorker who, like many other Americans in the region, was part of a family who had been coming to the lake for generations. As a young girl she came to visit her grandmother who had a property on the lake. She came with her family. Her Father loved to sail in his sailboat named Sadie.

Her great grandmother had bought the cottage. in 1919 from Frank McNulty. Her father inherited the cottage in 1943 and Louise became the owner in 1952. Apart from being an avid sailor, her father was also the secretary of the North Hatley Club. Louise worked in Manhattan in the advertising business. She came regularly every summer in August. In 1981 she sold the cottage to her nephew, Warren Ransom.

However she had a small parcel of land which she had kept and then gave to the foundation in 2012.The five and a half acre property is a forest that contains biologically significant plants and endangered species. The property is referred to as “Louisiana” by the Trust as this was the affectionate name given to it by members of her family when Louise purchased it for herself.

Louise gave the property to the Trust because she wanted to ensure its protection. She spoke with Tom Wilcox and understand the mountain was under threat from development.

Today she lives in Manhattan in the same apartment that she moved into in 1961. She remembers the summers on the lake and hopes that the changes are not too dramatic. She has not been back to the lake since the early 2000’s.

We have promised to exchange some photos. She is curious to see how the lake and the village look today. We are curious to see pictures that Louise will be sending us from the time when she spent her vacation in North Hatley. We will share them with you.

Louise’s history is part of a rich tradition of Americans travelling to Canada to escape the heat of the south and the big cities. Her gift is now part of the conservation tradition of land owners recognizing the urgent need to protect the forests and watershed. By conserving her the Massawippi Trust hopes to preserve the natural beauty of the lake and surrounding land for generations to come.

If you would like to find out more about donating land to the Massawippi Trust, please send us an email .

David Rittenhouse was one of the founding members and first trustees of the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. Remembered fondly by his friends and fellow founders, David is credited as being the person who sounded the alarm bell after noticing a potential serious environmental threat from development on the western slope of Lake Massawippi. A group of 20 concerned citizens gathered together to discuss the issue following which David took it upon himself to pick up the ball to research potential solutions. His efforts resulted in the formation of the Foundation and Trust in 2011. Sadly, David passed away on August 16, 2011 before seeing a single property protected. Today the Foundation and Trust protect 1200 acres of pristine forest in the Massawippi valley and have built over 12 kilometers of public trails.

DAVID RITTENHOUSE (1943-2011) Founding Director of the Dobson-Lagassé Entrepreneurship Centre at Bishop’s University, in Lennoxville, Quebec. Professor, Founding Chairman, Department of Drama, Bishop’s University, from 1966 to 1981. A creative force in the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust which embraces both the community and conservation of land in the Massawippi Valley, Quebec.

Mahicans Diamond helped us to identify this specimen seen just beside the trail.
The common name is Hemlock Varnish Shelf (Latin name: GANODERMA, tsugae)It is a very close look-alike to the Lucid Bracket  (common name) (Latin name: GANODERMA, resinaceum). They are distinguished by the dead trunks they grow on (one on deciduous trees, the other on Hemlock) as well as by the length of their foot/stem. Hemlock Varnish Shelf has a longer stem, Lucid Bracket has practically no stem.

I believe that the Lucid Bracket is commonly known as Reishi and known for it’s medicinal properties (antitumor, immune-enhancing, cholesterol reducing, longevity, etc.). It is consumed as a tea as it is very tough.

I think the Varnish Shelf is commonly mistaken as Reishi, and we have a lot of it in Eastern Townships Hemlock forests.

Enjoy our trails and nature with your eyes, the memories you will take home with you will be in your camera.  We remind you that you must stay on the trails and that you may not pick mushrooms, flowers or any other plants on Conservation Trust property.  This is a protected area and we count on you to respect it. 

Enjoy our trails and nature with your eyes, the memories you will take home with you will be in your camera.  We remind you that you must stay on the trails and that you may not pick mushrooms, flowers or any other plants on Conservation Trust property.  This is a protected area and we count on you to respect it. 

Warning/Danger :
Never consume a mushroom unless you are certain of its identity and edibility and are aware of any potential reactions it may cause.

What is tagging?
In order to help identify the borders of the land under the stewardship of the Massawippi Conservation Trust, yellow tags are nailed (one inch deep only) into the trees. Each tag is placed just above eye level, visible from one tree to another along the property line.
They indicate to passersby that this is conserved land, an ecoregion which contains pristine forests and is part of the watershed for Lake Massawippi. Numerous species of wildlife depend on the cover of the forest.

Forests provide other indirect benefits. They play a key role in maintaining water quality and containing carbon dioxide, a real issue in times of climate change.

In October two volunteers from the Massawippi Board joined David Brisson, biologist  from the Appalachian Corridor association to tag two new properties.

The A.G.M. was successfully held via videoconference on June 27th


Supporting Documents from the meeting:

Agenda AGM June 27th 2 p.m.


BY-Law No. 2 (PDF)

Directors 2020

Trail Building Protocol


Ethan’s Beach is now open!

Come take a hike down to the lake for a swim. Have a picnic. Enjoy the beautiful forests of the Massawippi Valley.

Here are a few things to keep in mind. As the beach is at the bottom of a hill, the trail slopes downwards and is rated “black diamond”. In other words a tougher hike, especially going back up. The trail is approximately 3,5 kms one way with a mixture of easy, intermediate and difficult sections.

  • There are benches along the way so that you can rest.
  • Remember to save some water for the return trip.
  • Bug spray and a walking stick also can come in very handy.
  • Besides the usual steps along the way there is a staircase with 85 steps just before you reach the beach. Once you have arrived here, you will see the lake.
  • The beach has 3 picnic tables. Please remember to keep you social distance and stay in your family bubble.
  • The lake has a small shallow entrance and then there is a quick drop off. Swim at your own risk.There is no lifeguard on duty.
  • It will take about 1 ½ hours to get back up the hill depending on your level of fitness.
  • Parking is at the end of Côte du Piémont (just off ch. Gingras) in Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley.  Google Maps
  • NEW A compost toilet has been added at the top of the stairs for your convenience.

The Massawippi Conservation Trust asks:

  • Stay within the sandy beach area;
  • Light no campfires;
  • No camping;
  • Behave appropriately;
  • Follow the internationally recognized code of ethics of “Leave no Trace” to respect our natural environment.

The Trust discourages the beaching of motorboats in this ecologically important area. You can pull up your canoe, kayak or paddle board .