RAY LOWES - FATHER OF THE BRUCE TRAIL 1911-2007
Hamilton - Ray Lowes, 96, father of the Bruce Trail and lifelong conservationist, died August 29, 2007 in Hamilton after briefly slipping into a coma. Nature lovers, environmentalists and anyone who has enjoyed the Bruce Trail have come to understand that without his efforts the natural beauty of the Niagara Escarpment would have been forever lost.
Born on March 23, 1911 Ray Lowes' conservation instincts were formed as a child, as he spent endless childhood days exploring the wilds near his Saskatchewan home. Eventually he settled in Hamilton. Always a naturalist and hiker, he became active in the Hamilton Naturalist's Club. Ray often recalled that he first conceived the idea of a trail along the Niagara Escarpment during the winter of 1959. Famed Canadian artist, Robert Bateman remembers that Ray once asked him, "What would you think of a hiking trail winding up the Niagara Escarpment from one end to the other?" Today the Bruce Trail is a reality, more than 400,000 visits are made to the Trail annually; over 8000 members and 1000 volunteers support the Bruce Trail Association. Last year over 1.3 million dollars was spent securing land on the Escarpment and 2,178 ha (5381 acres) of Escarpment land is safe from development and stewarded by the BTA.
A true visionary, Ray Lowes understood the all encompassing need to save the Niagara Escarpment. In a 1968 speech at the Niagara Escarpment Conference, Ray noted "not all of us can study ecology, but we should all have the opportunity to walk under ancient trees on a forest floor that is rich with the things that sustain life. It is this right of access to places of natural beauty that I plead for. We are poor indeed if we are so grasping for every dollar that we cannot afford this narrow strip of land across our Province for the good of all. The simplicity of our request is astounding! We just want a strip of land that will be left alone - not manicured, not landscaped, not serviced by multi-laned highways or "parkways", and not through new subdivisions. It's not much to ask. A later generation will demand it."
Ray received many honours for his work, including a Bruce Trail Honorary Life Membership, University of Guelph's Conservation Pinoeer Award in 2000, Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees from Brock and McMaster, and the Medal for Good Citizenship and Corps d'Elite Award from the Province of Ontario. When he received his honorary Doctorate from McMaster University the Chairman of the Board of Governors wrote: "In a time when our society is preoccupied with jobs, with careers, with professions, it is particularly important to emphasize that the great achievement of Ray Lowes' life has been the creation of a public facility beloved by thousands for which he was never trained, for which he had no "paper qualifications" and which was planned and carried on on his own time." In 2005 a side trail on the Bruce Trail (The Ray Lowes Side Trail in Hamilton) was created in his honour.
Ray Lowes lived a rich life that was full of accomplishment. He leaves us with an enduring natural legacy. The Association Ray Lowes founded, the ideas he championed and the vast Escarpment lands he help save -- will live on.