After spending more than half a million dollars last year to develop the local mountain bike trail network, Sault Ste. Marie is poised to invest as much as $1.5 million more for further expansions that could double the size of what's turning into a major tourism draw.
Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp., City of Sault Ste. Marie, Tourism SSM and Destination Ontario (the province's lead tourism marketing agency) have all flagged building the local cycling infrastructure as a tourism priority.
The current mountain bike network is currently comprised of about 30 kilometres of trails, largely clustered around Farmer Lake at the north end of the city.
In 2022 and 2023, as many as 35 more kilometres could be added, depending on support from higher levels of government.
At least 15 kilometres of new trail has already been fully funded and will be built:
- Tourism Sault Ste. Marie voted at its March meeting to provide $340,000 from funds it receives from the municipal accommodation tax (MAT)
- City of Sault Ste. Marie doubled that with $340,000 from its own share of the MAT money
- Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp. chipped in $20,000 in FedNor dollars
On top of that, Travis Anderson at the city is preparing applications to the federal and provincial governments.
"If successful in all grants, we would be eligible for approximately $1.5 million in funding and would build 30 to 35 kilometres of world-class trails," says Anderson, who is the Sault's director of tourism and community development.
That, he declares, would be "by far the best in Ontario."
"Mountain bike trails are a proven destination driver and are a great addition to Sault Ste. Marie’s tourism offerings."
"Mountain biking is a best-bet product to support the growth of our local tourism industry. Staff undertook thorough research, reviewed best practices and analyzed case studies prior to coming to that conclusion."
"Our goal is to establish Sault Ste. Marie as the premier mountain biking destination in Ontario, by developing a trail system capable of attracting cycling tourist for two- to three-day stays," Anderson says.
"The expanded trail network will help diversify Sault Ste. Marie’s current tourism offerings and will create new business opportunities for our local tourism industry by attracting more visitors to the community and by encouraging them to extend their stays," says Paul Skeggs, president and chair of Sault Ste. Marie Economic Development Corp.
"The expansion will also continue to encourage and attract new businesses who wish to benefit from our work-life balance," Skeggs says.