Matthew Cleary came to Canada from California. He had been working in national and state parks in the USA and moved here with his skills and his Québecoise wife in 2008 to raise their family. Our trail director, Mahicans Diamond, met Matthew in the region and soon they became good friends through their shared experiences.
Mahicans called Matthew to team up with him and build the trails at Scowen Park in North Hatley. Together they have been working on the Massawippi trails since the Trust first started to build them six years ago.
Everyone, without exception, that I have met has enjoyed their walking experience and many have said they are the best trails they have ever used. Known for their natural, easy going surfaces that blend into the environment, the Trail has been “discovered” during the pandemic as one of the best kept secrets. Some people want to keep it a secret, but not Matthew. When asked what he wanted to see in ten, twenty or thirty years, he replied, ‘’ I hope our network of trails will become widely known and that people come to use and enjoy them. It is good for their health and for others to see people walking, knowing they are not alone in this endeavor to enjoy the woods. It is good for the health of a community.’’

Our network reflect the personality of the trail builders. When I first met Matthew, I was struck by his kindness and generosity of spirit. As the Massawippi Trail foreman he is responsible to bring Mahicans’ dreams to life. He is practical man, a teacher, someone who studies the forest, it’s natural and human history. He notes the way people have left their imprint on the land. Smiling, he tells the story of cleaning Ethan’s beach and finding the history of Quebec beer through the bottles and cans people had left in the woods. An anthropologist perhaps, but first and foremost a trail builder who wants to build paths through the forest that respect the environment as well as creating a safe, friendly space for people to benefit from the woodlands.
Matthew is part of a team of three professional trail builders. Each summer, students are hired to be trained and work alongside the professionals. Matthew is their teacher and guide. I think it is a testament to the quality of their experience that the students often return for a second and third year. He loves their enthusiasm and desire to learn new skills building the trails. It is one of his favorite aspects of the job.
In the Spring, Mahicans and Matthew study the terrain and lay out a plan for each section they plan to build that year. Depending on the year, they build between two and three kilometers of trail. The Massawippi  Conservation Trust who owns the land and is responsible for its conservation has a goal of building up to 25 kilometers of trails in all.
The Trails is mostly built by hand. Occasionally some equipment is brought in for a particular section or piece of work but generally the builders use human power and ingenuity such as ropes and pulleys to haul logs and rocks. 90% of the materials used are from the surrounding forest. Matthew says not only does this save money but it is also means they are not introducing any foreign substances that might alter the biodiversity.
He speaks respectfully about cutting trees to be used on the stairs and other infrastructure. “If you remove one tree from a spot, it means more light, more water for the smaller trees who can then grow faster.”  He selects trees which are tall and straight (less waste) and those that are close to other trees. Or he chooses those that are in danger of falling down. “I hate to cut a tree but I don’t feel guilty because we are not removing anything from the system.”
Rocks, carefully selected from the forest, help people cross streams and line the edges of the trails to prevent erosion. Steps are built of logs, whose bark is removed and that are flattened on top to create a natural spot to place your foot. The trails follow the contours of the land. The person walking is considered, adding steps where the incline might be too steep to climb or a rock bridge to help them hop across a gully.
Margot Heyerhoff, President of the Massawippi Foundation which is the funding arm of the Massawippi Conservation Trust added this comment:
”From our earliest days, our Board decided it wanted to put ecologically sensitive trails into our protected properties.  We felt that it was not enough to just admire this conserved mountain from driving along Route 143 on the other side of the lake.  We wanted people to be able to experience what had been conserved by being inside this amazing forest. Matthew is helping make our dreams a reality.”
The trail network is almost complete on Wardman sector. This summer Matthew and the team will finish the loop on the Wippi North trail and then move onto a whole new section of the property.
No longer a secret, I think Matthew is pleased to know that the result of the hard work of the team has paid off and has helped so many find a healthier balance in life by walking here during the past difficult year.
I look forward to walking under the green canopy very soon and hope to run into Matthew and the trail builders who will be back at work in May.  If you see them, please stop and say hello.

So much has been written on this topic it is hard to know where to begin. Let us start by the definition and what forest bathing is NOT.
As you can surmise from the name Shinrin-yoku is a Japanese term which was coined in 1982 by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to describe humans making contact with nature or bathing in the forest atmosphere, in order to reduce stress and to connect with the natural healing properties of nature. Strictly speaking immersing your senses in the forest, Shinrin means forest and yoku means bathing.
The mid to late 1980’s in Japan was a time of economic boom and high stress in an overworked population where an average work week of 60 hours was not unusual. The alarm bell sounded as more and more people became sick or died from over work and stress. They were living the first urban stress epidemic in the world. The Japanese health authorities didn’t know what to do so they began to look at research about nature and its health benefits and from this developed a practice called Shinrin-yoku.

Forest bathing is not hiking. In fact you may only walk 500 meters or less while practicing. You can do it on your own or with a group. It is advised to start with a guide who can teach you to understand what it is to connect with nature and how to use your senses to find the active ingredients in nature.
The effects of stress, burnout and other widely felt health problems have been increasing and hit a new proportion as a result of the pandemic. The Massawippi Conservation Trust saw a huge increase in the number of people who sought out the Massawippi Trail as a means to relieve their stress.
Forest Bathing can be a de-stressor. The practice encourages connecting to nature through our senses. Leaving your phone, schedule and fitness regimen behind you can restore your health and begin to recover from both physiological stress and cognitive stress.
There are many research papers and books about the topic. Dr. Qing Li is a recognized leader in forest medicine. He is medical doctor at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School and is a founding member and chairman of the Japanese Society for Forest Medicine, a leading member of the Task Force of Forests and Human Health, and the vice president and secretary general of the International Society of Nature and Forest Medicine.

You might want to start your research by reading his book published in 2018:
FOREST BATHING: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness

As quoted from La Presse1 and reprinted here in translation:
For Dr Qing Li, author of the book Shinrin-Yoku, the art and science of forest bathing, it is therefore necessary for city dwellers to be able to recharge their batteries by going for a walk in nature. He advises spending at least two hours in the forest (20 minutes would already be beneficial) walking, aimlessly, without a smartphone, enjoying the trees, their natural smells and essences, their colours, the birdsong, the soothing landscape and the sounds of nature. It’s not about jogging or exercise, “but simply being in touch with nature, soaking up the forest through our five senses and reconnecting with it,” says Dr Qing Li.
In this book, Dr Qing Li, an immunologist at the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at Tokyo Medical University, shares his research on the links between forests and health. Since 2003, research has shown that forest bathing can strengthen the immune system, reduce anxiety, depression and anger, give energy, reduce blood pressure and stress, and promote relaxation,” he says. Forest bathing also improves concentration and memory, cardiovascular function and metabolism, lowers blood sugar levels and increases protein production against cancer. “

Below is a brief list to Forest Bathing papers, articles and websites to help you discover more about Forest Bathing.
[Effect of forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) on human health: A review of the literature]
The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan.

1  Lévy, Olivia (May 26, 2018). « La forêt contre le stress ». Dans La Presse, Montréal.

The Massawippi Conservation Trust  (MCT) has been considerably active over the past few years for the protection of the natural environments of its territory, and more particularly within the conservation core identified on the western shore of Lake Massawippi. Out of a natural habitat core covering 1,200 hectares, 36.7% of the natural environments are protected in perpetuity thanks to the work of the MCT. This is remarkable!

To achieve these important ecological gains, MCT has been working for over ten years in concert with Appalachian Corridor. From its offices in Eastman, the multidisciplinary team of professionals offers its 17 affiliated members a range of services for the implementation of conservation actions in its territory of action, which extends from Granby to Sherbrooke and south to the Canada-U.S. border. Over the past 18 years, Appalachian Corridor and its partners have protected 14,619 hectares of our rich and precious regional territory!

Among other things, when the MCT wishes to acquire a piece of land for conservation purposes in perpetuity, the Appalachian Corridor team is active in supporting the project by conducting an assessment of the ecological value of the area.

During its visits, the Appalachian Corridor knowledge acquisition team seeks to obtain a complete picture of the property’s biodiversity and sensitive environments. This is why it travels throughout the territory in search of species in a precarious situation, including birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and flora. Wetlands, areas with steep slopes, watercourses and mature stands are sensitive areas where the greatest biodiversity and sensitive species are often found. Biologists always keep their eyes and ears open so as not to miss anything.

Old maple groves are among the important targets to be evaluated on the land, especially those that are less accessible because they have usually suffered less disturbance and have more integrity. These maple groves are often rich and shelter a beautiful diversity of species, particularly plant species, some of which are in a precarious situation, such as wild garlic, which is only found in this type of habitat. The red oak stands present in this core habitat are another ecological element of interest in this sector since this type of forest stand is quite rare in our region. These stands are now only found on a few mountain peaks or slopes.

Streams are also one of the biologists’ favorite targets, particularly within the FCM’s core habitat because they are mountain streams where clear, cold and well-oxygenated water flows towards Lake Massawippi. These streams are home to several wildlife species, including amphibians that are very sensitive to the quality of the water and their environment – the northern dusky salamander and the purple salamander. The northern dusky salamander is likely to be designated threatened or vulnerable in Quebec, while the purple salamander is designated vulnerable.
The protection of streams and riparian zones are very important for these species, in addition to being essential to maintaining water quality in Lake Massawippi. It is probably due to the presence of these streams within the core habitat that a population of lake trout, also known as Gray Trout , is maintained in Lake Massawippi since this fish requires a habitat that has cold, clear, well-oxygenated water and where the pH is higher than 5.4.

Clément Robidoux, Conservation Director and Victor Grivegnée-Dumoulin, Biologist, Knowledge Acquisition Coordinator                                                                                

The Wilcox family,1955 on Lake Massawippi. Brandy (the dog), Bart, Gordon and Tom. Dr. Bud Wilcox on water skis. Who took the picture? Libby Wilson Wilcox sitting on the bow. The Wilcox camp in the background.

Tom Wilcox is a founding trustee of the Massawippi Foundation and the Massawippi Conservation Trust.

Tom is not new to Lake Massawippi, in fact he is a fifth generation American who is part of the long tradition of Americans who have been coming to Canada to escape the heat of the big city and enjoy life at the lake. His grandfather bought land 120 years ago and his father built the camp after the end of World War two.

When asked for his most memorable moment during his tenure on the board, Tom, who overflows with enthusiasm and love for the area, couldn’t stop at just one or two examples.

Peak memorable moments include:

The recognition of the Foundation and the Trust as legal entities.

  • Around 2010, Tom and a small group of individuals, sprang into action after noticing that a large tract of land on the mountain had been acquired for development. These neophytes decided that they needed to create a legal entity to preserve the pristine forest and ecologically sensitive watershed.

The acquisition of Louise Ransom’s property.

  • Tom was a neighbour of Louise Ransom (February 2021 article). He spoke to her for years about conservation, trying to get her to safeguard her land. At first he tried to get it under the protection of the Nature Conservancy of Canada but the piece was too small for them to consider. A small but significant parcel of land which Tom calls an anchor, pivotal to the conservation of the watershed of the lake.

The Challenge Grant to build the working capital of $ 100,000.

  • For every $2 raised a small group of donors were prepared to give $1 towards the goal. The money was needed to operate, buy land, pay taxes and legal fees etc. Tom, as President of the Baltimore Community Foundation, lent his expertise to the group. They were successful not only because of their personal passion but because donors recognised the need to protect and preserve the land for the community and future generations.The dedication of the Massawippi trail at the top of Côte du Piémont.

The dedication event was the shining jewel in the crown, commemorating all of the fundamental beliefs of the founding members and the donors.

  • First Nation, English, French, local residents, politicians, people of all stripes came together to celebrate the opening of the trails which gave the general public access to what was once private property. It was a recognition of the conservation values that the Wardman family  and others like Louise Ransom. Métis Paul Carignan and his wife Sylvia Bertolini sang an Anishnabe Sun Song. Their presence commemorated the original Abenaki people whose territory included this land. The land was recognized for its value and returned to the public as a protected space.
Tom spoke about the original idea of creating a legacy to secure what everyone loved most, the green space and fresh water of Lake Massawippi. Establishing an entity to ensure a clean, quiet, safe space. The group had a desire to work with the water protection association, Bleu Massawippi and the local communities to protect and preserve, to ensure the health and prosperity of the region.

From the citizen of Baltimore who settled in Baltimore Bay (on the west side of the lake) comes a heartfelt message for the community. The trails are the democratisation of the conservation acquisitions. The conservation efforts are not about creating green play grounds for the rich but rather something for the public. The idea is that private property is made available for public use. A concept which is more popular in the United States.

According to Tom, everyone who has grown up on the lake lived in fear of roads (a.k.a. development) appearing on the mountain. When he was a little boy, there were no roads to Blueberry point or northwards. Reaching their cottage was and still is by water access only. Properties would be worth ten times more if there were road access. The entire landscape would be different. And that is not why his grandfather bought the land 120 years ago.

Tom and his wife hope that the Wilcox camp will stay in the family and perpetuate the now six generations of family tradition. The surrounding property is protected by a conservation servitude. Along with the deep respect from the long family tradition comes the idea that through the Conservation Trust the area will be preserved for future generations and the public can have responsible access to the land. People cannot build more cottages on the land however the property can be sustained complimentary activities can be created.

To end the interview Tom said, “ General Motors is going to be carbon neutral by 2035 and all electric by 2045 so he would like to think that boats on Lake Massawippi could be all electric and quiet, a model, an eco-tourism center being one with nature like the Abenakis who lived here before we invaded. They were one with nature.”

Can we be?

Following our article last month about the Quatre Vallons cross-country ski trail maintained by Mr. Gilbert Beaupré, here is a sequel about the old Skiwippi trail which many readers will fondly remember.
The old 33km (20 mile) long trail went from Auberge Hatley (Robert and Lilian Gagnon) via Hovey Manor (Stephen and Kathryn Stafford) to the Ripplecove Inn (Jeffrey and Debra Stafford). It was the 1980’s and cross-country skiing had become very popular. Herman Smith-Johannsen (1875-1987), nicknamed Jackrabbit, is credited with introducing the sport to Canada. Originally from Norway, he was a  pioneer in North America and spent his life promoting his sport. Interesting fact – He died in 1987 at the age of 111.
In 1985 three of the Townships top inns created an innovative and luxurious skiing and dining experience. This award winning idea, recognised by the provincial government as a first in co-op marketing was a hit with tourists and locals. The alliance offered the clients a unique opportunity to ski from one end of the lake to the other. The package included six nights’ luxury accommodations, six country breakfasts and gourmet dinners. Skiers slept in a different hotel every second night.  Bags and sometimes guests were transported to the next stop.
When interviewed, Mr. Stephen Stafford said people loved the idea and quite a few of his customers came to the hotel because of the huge amount of publicity generated by the Skiwippi package.

Articles appeared in the


Nordic Skiers Pampered with Fine First Class Fare

“QUEBEC’S SKIWIPPI TRAIL links the Hatley Inn and Manoir Hovey in North Hatley, and the Ripplecove Inn in Ayer’s Cliff overlooking Lake Massawippi in the Eastern Townships.”
High Class Ski Week
Canadian Skiing Trail Is the Inn Place to Be 
“The best part of the trail, however, is that it links three of Quebec’s best inns. After a day in the frosty outdoors, the inns–Auberge Hatley, Hovey Manor and Ripplecove–glow in the darkness, beckoning skiers to evenings of fine dining and vintage wines.”
“The scenery and serenity of skiing from Inn to Inn.”
An Anglo-French Corner of Quebec
“Outward appearances in Estrie may suggest New England. But this is not New England. It’s certainly not Ontario either, the nearest Anglo province, nor even the Quebec beyond its boundaries. Trying to define it, the Quebec Government guide book describes it as being “a celebration of bicultural existence possessing a discreet Anglo-Saxon charm blended with ‘quebecoise’ joie de vivre.”
Find LINKS below.
The trail was free and open to the general public as well as guests of the hotels. Each hotel contributed to the upkeep of the trail. The rights of passage agreements were held between private landowners and the group.
Along with the three hotels another favorite stopping place was the Refuge Les Sommets, an outdoor base in St. Catherine de Hatley. It was at the end of chemin des Sommets, which turns off Chemin de la Montagne.
The view was amazing as was the lunch and hospitality offered by Madame Juliette Deland. She served rich hot Québecois food, including ragout, tourtière and the “best pea soup you ever tasted” to quote Stephen Stafford.
Michael Greyson, North Hatley native remembers Mme Juliette, an older silver haired lady, quite petite, who ran a great kitchen and large dining hall, with many tables often filled by Scouts, cubs or girl-guides. Especially in summer, but also winter weekends. During her 30 years, she welcomed and fed thousands of people, from diverse groups from all over the world. There were testimonials to her all over the walls, signed by grateful campers, who stayed in dormitories in separate buildings.

Michael also fondly remembers skiing through the field alongside Highland cattle, dropping down to the Hovey for a hot drink and carrying on afterwards down the lake. It was not an easy trail. It was filled with hills where you had to be sure of your skills.
The south end of the trail was in Ayer’s Cliff. You had to ski across the frozen lake before joining the southern mountain trail. The views were breath taking. The hospitality was the best blend Eastern Townships English and French culture and tradition.
The Auberge Hatley and the Refuge des Sommets are both gone. However sections of the trail are still available to the public via the Quatre Vallons trail which crosses the Massawippi trail.

Cross-country skiing is experiencing another resurgence. People are rediscovering the joys and benefits of being outdoors. How lucky we are to have access to trails right here in our backyard.

An old sign, left over from the Skiwippi Trail, still visible today on the Massawippi trail.

LA Times Dec. 1990
NY Times

Originally a forest inhabited by Abenakis, this land now comprising Scowen Park was partly cleared in the early 19th century for settlement. Over the years, a sugar camp was built in the maple grove high on the ridge. Blackberries grew abundantly. Below, a house and barn stood, while cattle grazed in the pasture nearby.

In 1980, the land was bought by prominent businessman and Townships historian Philip Scowen, and his wife, Eulah (Reed), residents of North Hatley. Eulah was a descendant of the Reeds, early settlers who built houses and mills in this area once known as Reedsville. Soon after buying the land, Philip and Eulah donated it to North Hatley and Hatley Township for recreational use by citizens and to preserve it as a green space in the center of the growing village.
After 30 years of sitting vacant a solution was found by involving the Massawippi Conservation Trust.
In 2015 Margot Heyerhoff, in her role as Chair of the Massawippi Foundation, spoke with Annis Karpenko, who is a grand-daughter of the late Philip Scowen. They agreed that the land be donated to the Massawippi Conservation Trust so that it could be used as originally intended. So much time had gone by that the original people involved in the donation, the Mayors and citizens of the time who knew the intention of the donation were no longer around.
After a period of negotiation which included reserving a parcel of 1 acre for the possibility of a future Fire Hall, the other 34 acres were transferred to the Massawippi Conservation Trust in 2016. We would like to thank the members of the family (Martha Maksym and Annis Karpenko in particular) and municipal councils who took part in the negotiations. The park officially opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 with initial public trails and many Scowen family members present. These were the first trails built by the Trust on conserved lands. Now with 4 ½ kilometers of trails at Scowen Park they are enjoyed for hiking and snowshoeing on a year round basis.
The park is maintained by the Massawippi Conservation Trust. One hundred trees and shrubs were planted by the local school children in 2019 at Capleton Road to provide a shaded path from the road to the forest. In July 2021, we plan to have an event open to all at the park to celebrate our 10th anniversary. The official announcement will be posted on our website and Facebook page, as well as in our newsletter.

The park is a generous legacy from the Scowen family for all to enjoy and work together to protect. We thank Philip and Eulah Scowen for their visionary donation and we thank their descendants for their role for making this park what it is today.

*P.S. The trails need ongoing maintenance. You can continue to support them through your donations.  
Contact us at for more information.

L. to R. Martha Maksym, Martin Primeau, maire du Canton de Hatley, Margot Heyerhoff à l’ouverture du parc Scowen octobre, 2016..

Martha Maksym chez le notaire signant, au nom de la famille Scowen, l’acte de donation, printemps 2016.

L. to R. Peter Scowen, Margot Heyerhoff (Chair of the MASSAWIPPI Foundation) and Martha Maksym, two grand children of Philip and Eulah Scowen.

Decendants of Philip and Eulah at Scowen park during the 2016 Thanksgiving opening.


Since its inception in 2011, the Massawippi Foundation has given over $ 450,000 to the community around the lake. Although the Foundation collects funds primarily for the Trust to buy land and build and maintain trails, it also gives back to the community.

One of the early recipients was Camp Massawippi 

The camp, located in Ayer’s Cliff, serves children and adults who have physical disabilities. Whether it be summer camp, day camp or respite days and virtual camp, the Camp provides an essential service for recreation, learning and growth in a beautiful
environment. It is a vibrant community which has dedicated staff who often come back year after year to work there. The current interim director, Mr. Jed Richman, was himself a camp counsellor for three years back in the 70’s.

In 2013, the Massawippi Foundation gave a grant to the camp for them to construct a safe and green path that was wheelchair friendly to facilitate access to their beach.

Always thinking about the future, the governing board of the camp is looking towards improving the kitchen facilities in order to make them accessible for educational programs. They plan to build a kitchen garden and will be needing volunteer gardeners for maintenance as well as people to teach campers about gardening.  Is this something in which you would like to PARTICIPATE?  

2021 is the 70th anniversary of the Camp which coincides with the 10th for the Massawippi Foundation. It is the perfect opportunity for us to highlight our strategic alliances. These alliances are key to the health and growth of the community. People helping people is INVESTING in our community!

To find out more about the dining hall fundraising campaign at Camp Massawippi simply click here.

As we celebrate the 10th year anniversary of the Massawippi Conservation Trust and Foundation, our neighbour, Mr. Gilbert Beaupré has been operating his trails for much longer than us. In 1977, Mr. Beaupré decided to build some cross-country ski trails. He has made this his labour of love and his duty to maintain over 12 kilometers of trails every winter for more than 40 years.

The circuit crosses over several private properties so he needs to get a seasonal right of way from the land owners to allow him to open the trails. Starting in the fall, he renews his permissions. He cuts back scrubby growth that might be in the way of the skiers. With the help of some family and his wife Yvette Beaupré, who acts as secretary, he cares for the trails. You can find him every weekend at the kiosk behind the Saint Catherine de Hatley community centre. This is the entry point. An annual membership costs $35 for individuals or $70 for families or you can pay the day rate which is $4.

The trail offers all the charms of the countryside: wooded areas, raised trails and panoramic landscapes. It is a demanding destination for skiers as the terrain is very hilly. When you start on the trail, you start by climbing up a field from which you have a beautiful view of Mount Orford and then you never stop going up or down afterwards. Where there are valleys, there are hills! At one point the ski trail crosses our snowshoe trail and in other places they run parallel to each other.

The contact phone number is his home phone. Mrs. Beaupré answers the calls. Gilbert laughed when he told me that sometimes people call late at night, expecting to leave a message on a business phone. After 10 p.m. he doesn’t answer.

Mr. and Mrs Beaupré don’t see each other very much in the winter as Gilbert is busy 7 days a week grooming and manning the ticket booth.
He used to ski as well, along with his family. He doesn’t ski anymore and his kids have moved away. When they come to visit, they still like to go out on the trails.

Website, Facebook page, other social media accounts? No, he doesn’t need any marketing. People discover the trails from friends and word of mouth.

Somewhat like the Massawippi Trail, Les Quatre Vallons ski trails are a treasured find for Townshipper outdoor enthusiasts.

“Thanks to the rights of way offered by the many owners, including the Massawippi Trust, we can offer very beautiful trails,” says Gilbert Beaupré, who looks forward to the arrival of the winter season every year.

Les Quatre Vallons will continue as long as Mr. Beaupré remains passionate. He intends to continue the picturesque circuit for as long as possible.

76 Rue la Grande, Sainte-Catherine-de-Hatley, (Quebec)
Téléphone : 819 843-7324

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 .