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Oct. 16, 2021 | Saturday
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Preserving NOTL's heritage is important, trail donors say
David Laing looks at the new Upper Canada Heritage Trail plaque to commemorate donors for the project. He and wife Gwen were among the first to donate to the project and said preserving the heritage of NOTL is very important to them. (Evan Saunders)

Gwen and David Laing had a deeply personal reaction to seeing their names Wednesday morning on a plaque commemorating the first 100 donors to the Upper Canada Heritage Trail's restoration and expansion.

“We’re emotional about it. We really believed in this project,” Gwen said.

“We believe in the heritage of Niagara-on-the-Lake very much and we want to preserve it.”

The trail is a special project because it is a heritage monument that is accesible and improves everyday life for residents, she said.

“It’s exactly what they said it would be. It’s for the community, for general people to use and, of course, visitors. But visitors don’t really know about it.”

The trail is built along the route of the old railroad that ran through town.

“If you walk (the heritage trail), then the neighbourhoods make sense, because they were built on either side of the railroad,” David said.

He pointed out the railroad's placement is one of the reasons some streets take on new names as they cross the municipality, such as Queen Street turning into Picton after it crosses over the tracks.

Building the trail along the former railroad had construction benefits.

“The good thing is it’s not got a lot of hills on it,” Gwen said.

David said the trail never inclines more than four per cent thanks to railroad companies flattening the land.

“And it’s raised, so it drains well,” he said.

The Laings, who live in Chautauqua, are frequent walkers of the trail they invested in and are looking forward to the full trail opening. But they say the current distance is perfect.

“Right now it’s a good length for us because we both have a little bit of knee issues,” Gwen said with a laugh.

The couple have been married for 43 years. David is a former vice-president of operations for a clothing company and Gwen is a registered nurse who still works part-time in St. Catharines.

They moved to NOTL five years ago from Mississauga and are happy to have contributed to the heritage trail project.

"It's very exciting to see your name there. Just to know you've made a difference. That's really important to us," Gwen said.

The unveiling of the plaque featured a number of dignitaries Lord Mayor Betty Disero began the speeches before introducing MP Tony Baldinelli, Rick Meloen and Tony Chisholm, who are both on the heritage trail committee.

MPP Wayne Gates called on newly re-elected MP Tony Baldinelli to help NOTL find funding to complete the heritage trail.

“What’s important to realize is how important heritage and a trail like this is to the overall health of our community,” Gates said.

He said after speaking to several people at the unveiling, the fact that NOTL is short of money was top of mind.

Having said that, Gates pulled up his pant leg and showed he was wearing blue socks.

“I wore my blue socks today because I want to say to Tony, very clearly, that I think me and you as elected officials should be making sure that we do everything we can to get the funds needed to finish this,” Gates said to a round of applause.

“If money is the stumbling block we’ve got to make sure that we get that for you.”

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