Peninsula Bruce Trail Club Pioneers – Ron Gatis 

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Submitted by Brenda Stewart, Archivist, Peninsula Bruce Trail Club,

At the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club (PBTC) AGM, held on May 11, 2024, the 60th Anniversary of the birth of the club and the volunteers who helped make it happen was celebrated. Two of the clubs’ founding pioneers were present, Shirley Johnstone and Ron Gatis. Ron Gatis was also honored at the AGM for nearly 60 years of generously hosting the Bruce Trail on his properties, one of which became the BTC’s MapleCross Nature Reserve at Hope Bay this spring.

(See Bruce Trail Conservancy Magazine Spring 2024 pg. 25 for more information on this new reserve which secures over 2.4 km of Bruce Trail.)

In 2017, at an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Bruce Trail, Ross McLean talked about Ron Gatis as one of the “faithful landowners” in the Peninsula section.

“The birth of the Bruce Trail is a well-known story: the vision of Ray Lowes in 1959, and then Philip Gosling’s work, initially in 1962, to organize local clubs to put the Trail on the ground. In a mere five years the Trail was completed.

But that success took tremendous volunteer involvement; remember that there was no paid staff and no outside funding. The idea was a naively utopian one: that landowners would give free-of-charge handshakes to allow people to walk across their property. Their motivation was simply that of a “generous citizen” who was pleased to share the beauty of their land with others. Without such cooperation there would never have been a Bruce Trail.

In the Peninsula, one key landowner is Ron Gatis. Ron tells the story of first discovering he idea of the Trail. He was working in Toronto and saw a map in a newspaper that proposed that the trail go right through the family farm at Colpoy’s Bay. Ron called his mother who said that it was a “great idea.” She regarded the family as “custodians of the land”, not just owners: they wanted to share its beauty with others. This was the first handshake agreement obtained in the Peninsula and it has existed to this day.”

Below is an article Ron wrote for the Peninsula Club’s Rattler Newsletter in 2017:

Author’s Note: Thanks to its donation, the original 1965 Bruce Trail Guidebook signed by Ron Gatis is now on display in the PBTC archives at the Ferndale Information Office. 

For more information on the history of the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club please visit pbtc.ca or email pbtcarchives@gmail.com