W-Hill and Suicide Hill

Letter of July 21, 2012, by Keith Davidson with an update on the Hills issue.

July 21st. 2012.

Subject:   Update Re Status Of The Kemble Heritage Hills (Roads).

I have attended six of the last Georgian Bluffs Transportation Committee meetings since October trying to impress upon the members that history is important and we should not forget it – we should preserve old landmarks that are so special like the 130 year old Kemble/North Keppel ‘W” Hill and the Kemble “Suicide” Hill. Our old hills/roads are heritage landmarks – they are Canadiana at it’s best – they are one-of -a-kind – they have been used for generations and generations – I have loved them since I was a kid.- they are like my birthright! The W Hill should have had an Ontario Heritage Landmark Plaque on it years ago telling/showing the public how our pioneer ancestors traversed the hill by horse/oxen before cars powered people up hills.

Since October I have copied to most of you my “epistles” to the Transportation Committee. I stopped in March because there was not too much to report to you. At each meeting I attended the Chair would say – “we hear you loud and clear Keith but we want you to know that the Hills are only temporarily closed, they are not closed permanently” which was somewhat encouraging. They kept saying that no final decision would be made until the new Operations Manager was hired, got acclimatized and gave his report on The Hills.

David Hartley became the Operations Manager and he came in with an excellent report on how to make repairs and renovations to the Hills – I was pleasantly surprised! Cost on W Hill he estimated for ditching, 3 wire cable, anchor blocks, granular, Twp. labour, equipment cost, signs and markers, culverts, pie was $25,171.99.

Cost for similar things on Suicide (the Top Hill) was $17,969 and Suicide (Bottom Hill just off Island View Drive) was $37,347 for a combined total of $55,316.

At the May meeting where they finalized their capital budget for 2012, staff told them how much they had to spend and you could tell by body language of The Mayor & Deputy Mayor that they had been counting on having far more money available – they were clearly disappointed and I surmised that they thought they would have had enough to do the work on the Hills. As it turned out The Kemble road re-pavement from the S Bend to the Arena and the parking lot was the first priority along with a couple of re-pavement jobs in the former Derby Twp. The Hills did not make it! I could not figure out for $25,000 why they could not pull a switch over from operations to capital so the work on The W Hill could be done this year?

I got my dibs in about The Hills on Canada Day at the Big Bay Dock were I M.C.’d for our Georgian Bluffs Celebrations and which The Mayor, Deputy and several Councilors attended along with several hundred residents. In my opening remarks I had people look around at the natural beauty we are so blessed to have in Georgian Bluffs here at historic Big Bay. I said “out here in North Keppel we love our old gravel roads and old hills! They are Canadiana at it’s best! I use them all the time – The Georgian Range Road, the Cape Road, the Kemble By-Pass Road and the North Kemble Rock Road – it’s like going back in time 150 years ago when our forefathers traveled these same old roads and hills in their horse and buggies. The past is important and thankfully Georgian Bluffs has preserved them. I will let you in on one of the best kept secrets in Canada! If you travel from here a mile and a half up to the Kemble Rock Road and go up the “W” hill, a Kemble/North Keppel landmark and the only remaining “W” hill in Ontario for vehicles – right now it is temporarily closed awaiting some guard rail repairs – park at the top in a little pull off I have made over the years – walk back on The Bruce Trail to the West on the back end of my Great Grandfather’s old farm and you will look down on an awe inspiring scene that will stir your emotions as you look down on the . . . . . . . . . . . .etc”.

At the conclusion of our Canada Day Celebrations I announced that I was retiring from organizing Canada Day and the other things I have been volunteering for in Georgian Bluffs the past fifteen years – my time had come and was now past. A few days later I got a call from the Mayor asking me if I could meet him in his office for a wee talk. I met the Mayor and we had a nice talk about various and sundry things. The best thing he told me at our meeting was that the work on repairs and renovations to the W Hill and the Suicide Hill will get done – not this year but in 2013. YES! That was good enough for me – I can wait for a year to get my country living lifestyle back where I can again make a circle back in history driving from our cabin up Suicide, then up the Kemble Rock, down to the brow of the W Hill and back on the trail to play my bagpipesat at my favourite spot, then down the W Hill to the Cape Road to Big Bay and back home along the shore road. It’s like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders knowing that I won’t have to go to any more Transportation meetings and better still I won’t have to lead a community fund raising drive to obtain monies for the Township to repair/renovate our beloved Hills.

I know some of you wrote letters and made phone calls to The Township about your concern about the closure of the Kemble Heritage Hills. Thank you! Way to step up!


R.Keith Davidson

P.S. In the spring the Chair of the Georgian Bluffs Recreation Committee did a re-write on the Community Information Kiosk at The K.W.I. Lookout – there are several errors and ommissions from the original. One miss information says that The Kemble W Hill and The Suicide Hills are now mere walking trails – nothing was said about The Hills being “temporarily closed”. I asked The Transportation Committee if I could tape over the miss information but was denied. We will see what The Township does about the false information they are advertising to the public. Hopefully corrections will be made.


Letter of October 18, 2011, by Keith Davidson, addressed to the Transporation Committee by Keith Davidson

October 18th. 2011

To:       Township Georgian Bluffs Transportation Committee

From:   R. Keith Davidson R.R. 2 Kemble Shore Ratepayer

Subject: Closure Of Georgian Bluffs “W” and “S” Hills

At the end of my report to the Georgian Bluffs Recreation Committee re the updating of the Kemble & Greater Kemble side of the kiosk at the K.W.I. Lookout on October 4 I wanted to discuss why two of Kemble’s landmarks The “W” and “S” hills were closed. I was directed to talk to the Transportation Committee and subsequently asked the Committee secretary if I could be placed on the agenda for your meting of Monday October 24th. 2011. Wendy said that she was including me on the agenda. I plan to be at the Administrative Office at 3:00.

To me the W and S hills are like my birthright – I am a fourth generation Davidson living in Kemble and I have been going up and down them since I was in diapers,   traveling in my parents old car as my Dad honked the horn either down or up the hills to let other cars know he was coming up or down. I wish that all my Davidson ancestors could have seen  how improved the two hills are now compared to “back in the old days” – they would not believe it!

I love those two hills, to me they are heritage, Kemble landmarks – our legacy! I think those two hills elicit pride and spirit for us Kemble folk because they are one of kind and have been used for generations for 130 years. They are convenient and fun to drive on – they enhance our lifestyle! I can get to the Wiarton Hospital seventeen minutes sooner going via the S hill than I can going to the Owen Sound Hospital even though Owen Sound is closer. Elmer Beckett born and raised in Kemble found the S hill convenient too – he was still driving his own car in his nineties and used the hill all the time to go up to son Bill’s farm – on Sundays I would be following him along the shore to church in Kemble – Elmer would turn right up the S hill and for the fun of it I would go the long way up to the S bend and in to Kemble to see who would get to church first – not once in all those years did I ever get to the church before Elmer – as I would be pulling past the Kemble arena Elmer already had his car parked and was walking in to open the church door!  I love to take our visitors on a “gravel run” and take them up both the S hill and the W hill – people are impressed with our two historic hills and love the experience of driving up or down them – they often say “ I see why they called this the W Hill (or the S Hill)”. I love to tell them about coming down the hill pretty well every week with my Dad when I was a kid to get fresh fish at either Howells or MacPhatters. My Great Grandfather Daniel Davidson farmed on the Kemble Rock on the farm that backs on to The Bruce Trail and The W hill (his big stone house is at the corner).  He helped construct the road on the W hill – he never owned a car in his life and he traveled up and down the hill all the time with his team of horses – Lordy I wish he could have seen how the road has been widened out the past few years, how vehicular run offs have been incorporated in to the hill and what good shape the road is in – I know he would have been patting somebody’s back for their good work on the road. I have been playing my bag pipes for years up on my Great Grand’s old farm – I stand on the Bruce trail looking down on the islands – for years I would make a loop – up the S hill – then up the Kemble Mountain – then back to play my pipes on the brow of W hill and then go down the W hill to Big Bay and then back to our cabin – now I can’t make the loop – I feel that my life style has been compromised because of the road/hill closures. To me the closures are a kin to tearing down a big beautiful century old structurally sound heritage home in a city just so somebody can put up a condominium or a block of businesses or whatever! To me history is important and we should do all we can to preserve it! The landmark Kemble hills are very much worth preserving!

I come to you to-day to speak up for the retention of the W hill and the S hill – I am hoping that you will give them back to us. They should be preserved for future generations! Nobody has said why the roads/hills were closed this spring – but it does not take a brain surgeon to figure out that The Township has in all likelihood decided that they want to put the operational monies budgeted for the hills/roads in to something else in The Township – or maybe the old guard rails are the problem?

I for one am willing to put “my money where my mouth is”!   I hope you have not closed the door forever on the W & S hills – I was heartened a bit at the last Rec. Board meeting when His Worship The Mayor told me as I was leaving that over the winter Council will be looking at the situation of the hills – I am hoping that they will take a pro-active stance and get them opened up again. But . . . if money is the problem and it can be shown that there is a financial crisis in the future maintenance and upkeep of the W & S Hills then I and others in the community should step up and help raise monies to keep The W & S hills open spring/summer and fall like they have been since 1880.

If we have to raise money to keep the hills open here are some things I think we can look at . . . . . . .

Try to solicit the aid of The Kincardine Lions to head up a “Help Save The Kemble W & S Hills/Roads” Project. In my working years I was good at helping raise funds for many community recreation projects – I would offer my services to The Club. Many of The Lions members were born and raised in Kemble and have used The W & S Hills all their lives. Lions participation would be a big, big plus!

Maybe The Kemble Women’s Institute the oldest active W.I. in the World would lend their support for The Project . The W.I. motto is “For Home & Country” and what better “Home” Project than helping to save The W & S hills/roads that their members have used since 1897.

We could have a “Hill-a-thon” similar to a Skate-a-thon” where people solicit pledges for the hill of their choice – people pledge a walker X amount of money for each time a participant walks down and walks back up the hill. Maybe The Becketts could perform a half hour before the start gun goes off while we held a pep rally?

Maybe The Lions could run a Canada Day Breakfast at The Big Bay Shore for The Project to raise funds?

Maybe we can talk Bill Murdoch & CFOS in to devoting one of “Murdoch Mondays” for people to call in with pledges for “The Help Save Kemble’s W & S Hills Project”?

While we are talking to him maybe we can talk Bill in to giving us a good price on bringing his Elvis and Jail House Rock Show to The Kemble Arena in the summer for a Show and maybe a dance after for The Project? I know Peter Irwin a.k.a. Elvis real well and I could twist his arm to help us out. My old friend Arnie Clark I will bet might lend his expertise to us for the Show too?

Maybe I can talk the Attack Hockey Club in to letting me and hopefully the Lions Club solicit funds in between periods at a hockey game for The Project. I would remind The Club of the hundreds of loyal Attack fans we have out here in Kemble & Greater Kemble. I have got to know Dave Middleton real well over the years and if the Club gave their permission he could help promote things for us in his role as Roving Game Side M.C. when there was stoppage of play on the ice.

I am friends with our MP Larry Miller and our new MPP Bill Walker and maybe we could talk them in to keeping their eyes open for Heritage grants (or other special grants) from The Federal and Provincial Governments in 2012. Because of my involvement with Canada Day organization in Georgian Bluffs,   Heritage Canada from time to time sends me information about new programs/grants they are offering – next year they are spearheading The 2012 Diamond Jubilee Celebrations and offering funding for community celebrations – I plan to phone them to check out if we could tie things in to a “Help Save The Kemble W&S Hills/Roads” Project because of the heritage implications. Maybe Bill could talk the Trillium Foundation in to helping us out with a nice big grant just like Arnie Clark and Bill Murdoch did for us when we were trying to raise funds for The KWI Lookout ($10,000 Trillium grant)?

Many people from Kemble & Greater Kemble work at Bruce Power – maybe Bruce Power would give a grant to a heritage project as described above?

And finally my “friend for life” (for what he did for us on the KWI Lookout Project)

Harold Sutherland. Maybe Harold would bring in his big extractor and donate a few hours to cut off 4 feet of the shale “washboard” at the top of the S hill that causes so many problems and while he was at it cut a nice big ditch towards the escarpment side all the way down the hill to the culvert at the bottom. Then the Township could pave the road and from then on there would only be minimal maintenance costs. Cutting down the shale, putting a proper ditch in and then paving the road – are ideas that have long been held by an old friend of mine who is lifetime Kemble resident who used the S hill all his life and would like to still use.

If capital costs to replace the guard rails on the W & S hills are a problem that the Township can’t handle and one of the reasons for the present road blocks – why can’t community volunteers become involved in partnership with the Township to provide the labour to replace the old posts and cable with new ones? Maybe local farmers and contractors would donate their tractors and trucks for a work bee under the supervision of The Township Roads Supervisor and/or Engineer? The greatest display of community spirit I ever witnessed was in Kincardine in 1972 when the Town’s engineer from Goderich declared the old Lambton Street Arena structurally unsound in mid October. Council padlocked the doors to the arena and declared that there would be no ice for the coming season. A community Town Hall meeting was organized by concerned residents – a plan was made to repair the arena rafters from the inside to bring the arena back up to spec. The Town and the engineers accepted the plan – Douglas Point (Hydro) donated “up-up” machines to get the lumber up to the roof trusses – 300 men from the community volunteered in shifts over two weeks in November – 50 tons of lumber was used – the arena re-opened on November 15 – the hockey and skating season was saved! The cost to the Municipality – just $10,000 for materials. If volunteers stepped up to lend a hand to replace the guard rails and cables on the Kemble hills and Council put them under the umbrella of Municipality like they did in Kincardine it could be a “win” “win” for Township and residents.

So – I will talk to you on Monday about our beloved hills.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that a way can be found to take down the road blocks.

I volunteer a lot for Georgian Bluffs parks, programs and projects to try to make our community a better place and am willing to offer my services to help get the roads opened up again. I am pro-active! My philosophy in life has always been “there are no problems – just solutions!”


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