Back in the early 90’s life as a dirt biker in Northumberland County was pretty great. Motorcyclists had just created a single-track trail system in the Ganaraska Forest under the guidance of the Ganaraska Regional Conservation Authority. A provincial trail riding organization had been formed, Ontario Federation of Trail Riders (OFTR). The new concept of organized trail riding was being embraced by Ontario motorcycle clubs and Ontario riders were welcoming the new non-competitive activity.
Some enthusiasts who had been instrumental in building the 70 kilometers of single-track trail in the Ganaraska Forest thought a similar project could be created in the Northumberland Forest. These individuals under the blessing of the OFTR, approached the Northumberland County with a written proposal which was accepted by council on September 22, 1997. (563:97)
As exploratory trail marking began it was believed that an area-specific non-competitive motorcycle club should be formed to guide, govern, and build this new trail system. This was headed up by a Grafton character named Brad Bell who was a very active member of the Northumberland Forest Users Committee. Brad spent considerable time at the registry office learning all the forest boundaries. Though Brad was colour-blind and had a poor sense of direction he was half of the vital crew who found and ribboned what would eventually become a single-track system about 80 kilometers in length.
The incorporation date for the Northumberland Trail Riders was July 02, 1998 and the signatories were Brad Bell, Jenifer (Grey) Denis and Julien Denis.
The actual creation of trail in the Northumberland Forest was a slow slog due to a small local base of riders (21 members in 1998) to draw from and riders/workers originating from the GTA were drawn to the closer Ganaraska Forest as a riding destination. Trail however did get created bit by bit and was used by the Oshawa Competition Motorcycle Club for the Mini Pine Enduro for a few years.
The NTR began in 1998 hosting a yearly organized trail ride as a revenue source.
In 2004 a parcel of land adjacent to the Northumberland Forest came up for sale. At a special NTR club meeting on November 17, 2004 three motions were passed, one; to attempt to purchase the property, two; set a maximum amount to spend, three; secure a mortgage.
The land purchase is history, and the property is now mortgage-free. The ‘club property’ boasts 12 kilometers of single-track trail, a newly added ‘kids course’, a picnic area, a gazebo shelter with tables, a sea-can container with barbeque and riding lawnmower.
The NTR held a very successful spring trail ride for a dozen years and in 1998 debuted a NEW IDEA of a trail ride exclusively for the female portion of the riding community. This was a charity event, named for a female rider Meg Thorburn who was battling cancer. Proceeds from four years hosting ‘Meg’s Ride’, totaling just over $35,000 was donated to the Northumberland Chemo Cancer Clinic of the Northumberland Hills Hospital.
In 2009, politics and ‘anti-motorcycle’-money came to play with an outcome of 95% of the single-track trail being expropriated! Motorcyclists were left with about 8 kilometers of single-track trail, which is the situation today. The 100-acre NTR owned property boasts 12 kilometers of trail. The 6000-acre Northumberland Forest offers 8 kilometers of single-track trail! Little wonder some bitterness lingers with older members who invested 12 years creating the original trail system.
After the loss of the trail in 2009 and the inability to host a trail ride event in Northumberland the NTR looked elsewhere to host events. A succession of cross-country races has been held bi-yearly and a one-day trail ride has been held each year in the Bancroft area.
Despite these setbacks The NTR has continued to support Northumberland County through donations to local food banks, purchase of defibrillator for the Centerton town hall and roadside garbage clean ups. We also continue to operate trail stewardship days in the forest to help educate trail riders to be responsible and act courteous to other trail users.
NTR’s original membership of about two dozen people, has gradually increased to a surprising 171 in 2019 and astoundingly in mid-July 2020 exceeds 260 members.
Warren Thaxter, Charter member
Original NTR Members, 1998