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Trail Town: Sault launches new 'salty' summer racing festival

Wherever you go, you hear people mispronouncing our city as ‘Salt’ Ste. Marie. Organizers of a new July trail festival have embraced this, naming their event the 'Salty Marie'

New mountain bike venue construction and a first-time trails festival are planned this summer as Sault Ste. Marie continues its quest to become Ontario's Trail Town.

Cunningly branded as the Salty Marie, the new trail-running, mountain bike festival is planned for Saturday, July 29 at Hiawatha Highlands.

It will include mountain bike races, a running race, vendors, bike brand demonstrations, food, drinks and family activities.

"Sault folks know that it is pronounced Soo Ste. Marie, but it never fails that wherever we go, we hear Salt Ste. Marie. So we decided to embrace it," declares the event website.

Proceeds will go to Kinsmen Club of Sault Ste. Marie, Sault Cycling Club and Sault Ste. Marie Search and Rescue, all organizations that help make it possible to safely cycle at Hiawatha.

Events will include:

  • a 10-kilometre trail-running contest
  • a two-kilometre Saltine Shred for young cyclists 
  • a Low Sodium 10-kilometre mountain bike race
  • a Saline Short 25-kilometre bike race
  • a Big Brine 50-kilometre race

Red Pine Tours, which is presenting the event, is hoping for 214 local athletes during the initial hours year, plus 83 from elsewhere in Canada and 23 from the United States.

Red Pine Tours wants to develop the inaugural one-day festival into an annual multi-day event.

Algoma University will be a recurring sponsor and has agreed to shuttle international students to either volunteer or participate in the festival.

"Organizers are planning a four-year strategy to increase programming including a multi-day, backcountry stage race, and mountain bike clinics and increased distance for trail runners," said a report prepared for this month's meeting of Tourism Sault Ste. Marie directors.

The new festival will use a significant part of Sault Ste. Marie's still-under-development mountain bike trail system.

Tourism SSM is aiming to build the finest four-season mountain bike destination in Ontario, a place where visiting cyclists will stay for two or three nights.

And they're not going to stop there.

"As we continue to grow, we’re looking to work with other trail communities around Lake Superior to promote the region as one of the top riding centres in North America," says material prepared for the tourism board.

Last week, Tourism SSM agreed to award a $561,741 contract to Precambrian Natural Surfaces Trails Inc. for construction of an additional 9.3 kilometres of trail including:

  • completion of Farmer Lake Trail to Crystal Lake
  • developmental  of a youth zone / skills area in Kinsmen Park
  • installation of a recreational bridge over the Root River, connecting trails from the Hub Trail on Third Line to Hiawatha/Kinsmen Park

A second contract valued at $50,920 was awarded to Holocene Trails Co. for a skills zone trail and completion of a trail adjacent to the Crystal Creek trail system, totalling an additional 1.3 kilometres.

After that work is completed, Tourism SSM has $1.1 million more to spend on trail construction.

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David Helwig

About the Author: David Helwig

David Helwig's journalism career spans seven decades beginning in the 1960s. His work has been recognized with national and international awards.
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