Several decades ago, a group of Virden men got together and initiated a wonderful project. Gerry Gatey and friends planned and built a walking path along the banks of Scallion Creek.
It began (or ended, depending on the direction of your walk) at the Queen St. West bridge, followed the creek to Centennial Park where it formed a loop, and continued on the other side of Nelson St. West. From there the gravel path passed by the Junior High's playing field until winding up at the Myrtle Lane wooden footbridge, a picture-perfect finale.
Folks you’d see on the trail included dog walkers, visitors to Virden, cyclists and students on their way to school.
It was also the best place in town to see muskrats and beaver, painted turtles, ducks and herons, red-winged blackbirds by the dozen, even kingfishers and gulls plucking sushi from the shallow waters while children with buckets hunted for minnows, crayfish and frogs beneath the footbridge.
But, for some reason, maintenance of the trail began to decline. Year after year, the grasses and weeds encroached further over the pathway and eventually reclaimed it. These days, the weeds are taller than most children.
About three summers ago, the Town's backhoes came to widen a drainage canal that empties into the creek and, in the process, they tore up a wide chunk of the trail.
Several culverts that diverted water under the trail were also dug up and left abandoned beside the creek like garbage and are still lying there to this day. Without the culverts, the area became an impassable mud bog.
In Virden, we’re pretty gung ho about finding ways to encourage business and shoppers to come here. Recently we've had several good news stories: the opening of a new dental practice, a downtown spa, and the return of 7-Eleven to town. These are all boons to the community that deserve to be celebrated.
But what about quality of life? Does every civic-supported project have to bring dollars to town?
And don't we do a disservice to the volunteers who build amenities for us if we fail to maintain them?
Virden is so lucky to have a waterway coursing right through town with its rich riparian banks that harbour plants and wildlife, giving us a quiet, green escape from the concrete realities of town.
As Janice Barrate wrote of Scallion Creek in her 2015 submission to the Empire-Advance:
“It is an absolute treasure to have in this town, and we are so blessed to have the opportunity to be discovering some of the neat creatures that make it their home.”
The walking trail should be restored. Let’s do it as a sign of respect for the original builders who gave their time and resources to create this gift to Virden. It’s time.