Mount Foster re-opens to the community

Lorraine Briscoe 

The new 4.5 kilometre network of trails around Mount Foster is open, a testament to citizen involvement and cooperation. The Appalachian Corridor’s (AC) official opening saw about 100 people gather to celebrate this accomplishment. 

Key players took turns speaking, including Marie-Josée Auclair, AC Board President; Mélanie Lelièvre, AC Executive Director; Gail Watt, a steadfast AC supporter; Denis Vaillancourt, the mayor of West Bolton (who acknowledged the work of his predecessor, Jacques Drolet); Harry Bird, a councillor standing in for the mayor of St-Étienne-de-Bolton; and David Brisson, AC Protected Areas Management Coordinator. 

An exceptional mobilization of concerned people created the protection of this 215-hectare site. In 2013 many citizens expressed opposition to a housing project on Mount Foster. The AC, a non-profit conservation organization for the Appalachian region of southern Quebec, worked for years to reach an agreement with the developer, Mr. Lussier (who attended the ceremony), to purchase the site. In the spring of 2018, a deal was signed for $1.9 million, and AC began a ‘Save Mount Foster’ fundraising campaign to finance the acquisition. Several generous donors, many partners and the two affected municipalities came together to make it happen. 

In May 2019, West Bolton sought the acceptance of its plan for the conservation and development of Mount Foster via a public consultation. West Bolton residents voted in favour of the town’s plan (76%) in June 2019. As a result, a more limited real estate project (14 lots) was able to go ahead on land adjacent to the 215-hectare site. 

A personal view of the hiking trail:
The new trails exemplify the highest standards of respect for the natural environment and certain species, such as the Spring Salamander and the Wood Thrush. The trails, built over the last three summers by a team of 5-10 people, are free to the public but will be maintained through donations to AC. The quality of the trail workmanship is impressive. 

The entire hike, including the smaller loop through the old orchard and then up to the lookout tower and back to the parking lot, takes about 75 minutes. The hike is easy, but you can expect to break a sweat as you climb some stone steps and then some wooden ones towards the top. The old rock wall around the orchard is a stunning work of beauty. In the small clearing in the orchard, there are two picnic tables. Fresh moose tracks were seen on the path early one morning so be on the lookout. 

Along the way, you will cross some wooden bridges. Finally, the 360-degree view at the top of the 25-year-old tower will take your breath away. You can see the entire Green Mountain range, Brome Lake, and part of Lake Memphremagog. 

The excellent signage and maps make it impossible to get lost. The trails will be maintained all year round and remain open during hunting season. It is also possible to connect with Les Sentiers de l’Estrie’s 200 km network of trails from the tower. Portable toilets are available in the parking lot. No dogs are allowed on the trails. 

When Gail Watt took the podium at the inauguration, she shared her emotional journey of the last ten years. “I stopped walking my dogs up the mountain when they started blasting the rock. I couldn’t bear to see it”. Today she said she considers the developer, M. Lussier, a friend. She wrapped up by saying, “I still haven’t told the dogs they aren’t allowed on the trails.”