SUDBURY - For Torontonian Jon Gee, the portion of bike trail between Massey and Espanola — part of the 3,000-kilometre Great Lakes Waterfront Trail — is what stood out in his mind as one of the best parts of the days-long trek.
Gee was among 145 cyclists to depart from Sault Ste. Marie on July 29 and arrive in Thursday. Throughout the adventure, they made stops in Bruce Mines, Blind River and Espanola.
In Sudbury, cyclists toured Stack Brewing, Crosscut Distillery and 46 North Brewing, before making their way to Science North to cross the finish line and collect their medals.
This year’s cyclists were from four provinces, including Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and New Brunswick and seven States, including Alabama, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Arizona and Pennsylvania. They range in age from 23 to 81.
“I've ridden in many of these tours, and this marked the opening of the trail in Northern Ontario, and I really wanted to see it,” Gee said. “It's been a great ride. It's really a good trail for the north. It's scenic, but it's also challenging.”
Developing this trail system is a great way to get people out to see, appreciate and value the wildlife and the ecology that is abundant along the way, he said.
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail uses a combination of paths, roads and secondary highways connecting 140 communities along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River from Sault Ste. Marie to the Quebec border.
This year, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust’s 12th annual ride marked the completion and official launch of a four-year program to expand the 3,000 km Great Lakes Waterfront Trail along the Lake Huron North Channel.
It is the first provincially recognized cycling route in Northern Ontario and also designated as part of The Great Trail, Canada’s national trail system.
Edward McDonnell, CEO, Greenbelt Foundation, which is one of the partners in the initiative, said his organization spent about seven years working with Waterfront Regeneration Trust on the Greenbelt route, and there interest out of that to connect other communities across the province.
That's how the idea for the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail came about.
“Ultimately, we want to be supporting people who want to go on these cycling adventures and the communities that stand to benefit from a tourism standpoint,” McDonnell said.
“We're seeing a growing demand both for outdoor recreational opportunities and for cycling, in particular. In the Greenbelt, for example, there has been a $2.1-billion expenditure in tourism and recreation, and about $400 million of that has been for cycling alone.
“What we know from various studies, is cycling is one of the fastest growing activities, because people just want to get out and enjoy nature, they want to do things as a family and explore parts of the province they haven't been able to before.”