Nepean Nomads Walking Club



By Ron Gardner – Club Founder

I worked with Bill Pryde at National Defence and he was always badgering me to go on a “Volksmarch”. I resisted by telling him I wasn’t marching anywhere. After explaining that it wasn’t a “march” but a leisurely walk at my own pace I succumbed to his badgering and convinced, my wife Chris, to join me to try a volksmarch.

There were three clubs in the area at the time: Kanata Wanderers, Club Volkssport Orleans and the Rockcliffe Rovers. The Ottawa Carleton Volkssport Association (OCVA) also sponsored several walks each year. Our first walk, with Bill as our mentor was with the Rockcliffe Rovers. At the start Bill said to Chris “Go halfway and if you don’t like it go back.” However, she had other plans. Unknown to me she made sure that she had the exact change for the bus so that if she didn’t like the walk she planned to take the bus home. The route was nowhere near a bus route so we both finished the walk and have been doing walks since 1989.

In 1990 Bill Pryde and I decided that we should have a Club in Nepean. We recruited a few more people and held our first meeting in my basement on 29 November 1990 which was attended by: Bill Pryde*, Bob Hubbard*, Angela Stever*, Lorne Hemphill*, Steve Soros*, Jim Gauthier, Heather Kay, Marlene Laprade, Bill & Ginnette Brown and Jim Riches. *Still members

At that meeting we set the membership dues at $5 per member or $10 per family. Those rates remained in effect for 17 years until 2008 when we increased the dues to pay the CVF the $5 per member membership levy. We chose the name Nepean Nomads Volksmarch Club and decided that our first event would be a Volksmarch which would be held on 15 June 1991 in conjunction with Nepean Days.

Following that initial meeting we applied for CVF charter and at a subsequent meeting we were given our charter by then CVF President, Ron Colpitts. The following members formed our first Executive:

  • President - Ron Gardner
  • Vice-President - Bill Pryde
  • Treasurer - Angela Stever
  • PR Director - Jim Gauthier
  • Trails Director - Lorne Hemphill
  • Awards Director - Steve Soros
  • Telephone Committee Director - Heather Kay

As stated earlier we decided that our first club event would be a Volksmarch which would be held on 15 June 1991 in conjunction with Nepean Days at Andrew Haydon Park. Although some of the Executive had attended Volksmarches we had no idea how to plan, organize or run an event. To familiarize ourselves with the operation our Executive volunteered to work the desk for a Kanata Wanderers volksmarch held at the RA Centre in the spring of 1991. The President of the Kanata Club at the time was Gord Bell who is now a Nepean Nomads member. We made a few goofs, learned a lot and got on with the task of organizing our first event.

It sounded good and we advertised it as 10 KM Volksmarch and asked our trails Director, Lorne Hemphill, to lay out our route. The first route turned out to be about 16 KM. After some modifications we changed our advertising to 12 KM. While the test walk of the route and other planning was going on Steve Soros was busy designing the award for the event. Yes, in those days we had an award for each volksmarch which walkers could purchase. June 15th arrived and it was a blistering hot day. Lorne Hemphil was up at the crack of dawn and walked the route for a second time to check the trail markings and later in the day he was out there again taking down the trail. We’ve learned a lot since then that trail marking and tear down is not a one person job.

Shortly before 9 AM Nepean Mayor Ben Franklin officially cut the green ribbon to inaugurate Volksmarching in Nepean and send off 249 walkers on their trek to Andrew Haydon Park and back. Also in attendance that day were Alderman David Pratt, Chair of the Nepean Parks and Recreation Committee who was instrumental in helping us get the support of the City, Provincial MPP Hans Daigler and Paul Kemp, Director of Nepean Recreation. We had Canadian volksmarchers from Sardis, BC; Innisfail, AB; Halifax and Sydney, NS. International visitors came from New York State, Germany and a delightful couple, Eveline and Charles McMullen from Dublin, Ireland. Despite the heat, our 1st International Volksmarch was extremely successful. Naturally the Executive was very relieved that we had succeeded and that we had set the stage for many more successful events in the years ahead. Oh yes! The route was actually 14 KM and we entered 13 KM in the books. And you know what? We did not receive one complaint.


And now we move on to some other memorable happenings. First, I will digress a bit. When we were organizing we elected to keep the then Nepean Recreation Department informed of our progress. We submitted our planned logo to them showing the Nepean Nomads in the unique script that the City of Nepean used together with the Nepean Bell. Wow, did bureaucracy rear its ugly head. We were told in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to use the Nepean’s unique script and under no circumstances could we use the Nepean “bell” in our design. After several verbal exchanges and meetings we were finally allowed to use the Nepean “bell” but we had to formally enter into a Leave & License agreement with the City of Nepean. We did that, paid the nominal $1.00 fee and today we have in our Nomads history file a signed copy of the agreement. I wonder if it had been our current city council if we would still be waiting for approval.

After we had our first Volksmarch in June of 1991 which was very successful we planned a “Guided Walk” from the Bell Arena which I was the leader. I pre walked the route the route which would take us into the forest behind the arena, over to Knoxdale Rd (now Hunt Club). I was positive I had the route down pat and would be able to act like the “Pied Piper” and lead a crowd of happy walkers through the many twists and turns of the forest pathways. Alas it was on that day I discovered I had no sense of direction in the woods. After about three minutes of walking I had led the group from one side of the parking lot through the woods to the other side of the parking lot. I didn’t know that marking trails with ribbons would be a good idea. How much we have learned since then. Fortunately, Ollie Olson was with us and he rescued me and guided the group through the woods on 10KM trek. Needless to say I no longer volunteered to lead a guided Walk and in fact the club decided that except for Volksmarches we would only do Map Walks. In 1992 in addition to our Nepean Days Volksmarch, we expanded our program to include a Year Round event from the Nepean Sportsplex, the Perth Festival of Maples Volksmarch and the Autumn Leaves Volksmarch and in 1993 in addition to these events we had a Volksmarch in Richmond Ontario and five map walks - Barrhaven, Nepean City Hall, Nepean Equestrian Park, Merrickville and Almonte. Here are the stats from 1993:

Event Medal Stamp Free Total
Year round Sportsplex 65 136 4 205
Richmond Volksmarch 121 111 7 239
Nepean Days Volksmarch 85 65 3 153
Perth Volksmarch 68 63 9 140
Autumn Leaves Volksmarch 53 48 7 108
Map Walk Barrhaven 42 42
Map Walk Equestrian Park 51 2 53
Map Walk Almonte 2* 55 9 66
Map Walk City Hall 2* 49 6 57
Map Walk Merrickville 8* 70 10 88
Total 404 690 57 1151

*B medal

Finally, here is an excerpt from the Nepean Nomads meeting held on 29 November 1990: “Ginette xxxxx asked if it was permitted to have a volksmarch consisting of a shorter route to accommodate seniors. It was agreed that this question would be presented to the CVF.” Kind of prophetic on Ginette’s part eh! Here we are twenty years later doing 5KM walks.

To be continued...