Railway line becomes local natural jewel: The History of the Howard Watson Nature Trail

Mary Martin, Organizer of this year’s Annual General Meeting (April 14, 2018), announced that bucket draw prizes are being collected for the AGM. For those who wish to donate prizes, please bring them to the February/March indoor meetings, or arrive early at the AGM to donate.

Fernand Noel and Sheila White, both of whom have made significant contributions to the establishment and long-term success of the Howard Watson Nature Trail (HWNT), lead us through its history on Monday night.

Bill Hoad introduces guest speakers.


Up until its abandonment in 1967, the HWNT used to be an operational railway that was primarily travelled by trains transporting sugar beets. The linear path was then unofficially used as a trail, but in 1982, City Councillor, Howard Watson sent a letter to Lambton Wildlife asking if the club had any interest in making this linear property a hiking or biking path.

Although it may seem like the rest is history…Fern and Sheila explained (entertainingly too) that it wasn’t.

Not everyone was in favor of an official trail, and they were loud in their opposition.

History of the HWNT’s opposition, establishment, and success as told though historic newspaper clippings.


Described as challenging, but rewarding, Fern, Sheila, and others involved in the trail project worked hard for years to see the concept of the HWNT become a reality. In 1988, the Howard Watson Nature Trail was officially born, but the efforts of volunteers, community groups, and City of Sarnia committees to improve the trail have been continuous to this day.

At the end of the talk, Fern asked who in the audience had helped to establish and ensure the success of the trail all those years ago, and I was surprised by the number of LWI member hands that were raised. For me, it was a true reminder of the passion and dedication we have among our membership in the club, as well as their accomplishments.

Sheila (sitting Left) and Fern (right) answering audience questions.
Sheila White (left) and Fernand Noel (right).












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