The Great Waterway Trail Adventure – Cycle The North Tour (July 28-August 2, 2019)

Special Projects – M. Wozny

The Lake Huron North Channel – Great Lakes Waterfront Trail Cycling Route/Trans Canada Trail is a Destination Northern Ontario (DNO) led project in partnership with Waterfront Regeneration Trust (a provincial cycling coordination association). The Lake Huron North Channel Cycling Route portion now encompasses over 25 communities, including First Nations, along the North Shore of Lake Huron from Sault Ste. Mare to Sudbury. At approximately 370km and with over $10 million in special projects funding accessed by DNO, the first phase is complete. The route is continuing to expand to include more communities and to ensure connectivity to regional and provincial cycling trail systems and attractions. Drive-And-Ride itineraries are being developed to allow 2-3 day excursions along the route. Other Northern Ontario communities are clamouring to be part of the Lake Huron North Channel Cycling Route and connector trail success.

To celebrate the completion of this extensive first phase, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, CAA and Destination Northern Ontario presented the 12th Annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA). This is an annual cycling event that highlights a premier section of the integrated provincial cycling trail system. This was a very exciting cycling tourism event for Northern Ontario as it showcased the North’s pristine environment, breath-taking shorelines, geological features and superb hospitality. There were over 160 riders and participants from Canada and the United States. Many of the riders were very experienced riders who have cycled in Europe and the southern U.S. These riders were very impressed with the quality and mapping of the trail, attention to detail and the uniqueness of the region. Impressive features included travelling along remote back-country roads, riding along the shoreline of rivers and Great Lakes, traversing through the Canadian Shield (4 billion year-old rock) and being immersed in the Boreal Forest. Riders particularly enjoyed travelling along the same routes as the French and British explorers over 350 years ago.

Riders and their gear were transported from the Toronto area to Sudbury, then to Sault Ste. Marie. On Sunday, riders enjoyed Sault Ste. Marie’s attractions including voyager canoe rides, shopping and the Hub Trail. That night, a launch dinner was held at the Delta Hotel full of VIP’s and dignitaries. On Monday morning everyone got down-to-business and headed east on the cycling trail with the first water stop at Ojibway Park in Garden River First Nation. Overnight stays were at Bruce Mines, Blind River, Espanola and Sudbury. Along the way, there was a CAA Bike Assist repair trailer and bike mechanic (over 20 flat tires), roadside medic, professional photographer and support vehicles. As the three smaller community’s motels would be filled each night, more capacity was required. That is where Comfy Campers takes over. This outfitter specializes in North American cycling tours only and travels to the campground ahead of time. For each rider they pitch them a high-quality tent, fills up an air mattress, lays a fresh towel on the bed and sets up a chair. Dozens and dozens of the tents were erected in rows creating a unique cycling community each night. Shown here is the set-up at Blind River Marina. The next day the cyclist leaves and when they arrive at the next destination, the tent, mattress, fresh towel and chair is erected and waiting for the traveller. First class service the entire trip!

The hospitality from the communities along the route was outstanding. This included breakfasts/lunches hosted by communities such as the Township of Johnson (with fiddlers), Bruce Mines, Blind River, Espanola and others. The riders also enjoyed a lakeside outdoor concert hosted by Bruce Mines and on-site radio coverage in Espanola. Mississauga First Nation had a number of young and elder female members perform a water ceremony that included all the cyclists and was very inspiring. Serpent River First Nation hosted a water stop drumming cyclists through and talking with participants about a variety of topics and sharing their culture. Local attractions in the communities were also visited. Sudbury was very supportive as the event culminated along the shores of Ramsey Lake at Science North. A wrap-up dinner was held at the awesome Vale Cavern room in Science North and was attended by all participants, politicians and dignitaries.

The event was a great success as it showcased DNO’s ability to be innovative and successfully develop new product, create jobs, develop partnerships and drive investment. DNO was able to access over $10 million in funding and convince the Ministry of Transportation to erect signage and create paved cycling shoulders on approximately 50 km of Highway 17. The result is first class paved, wide and lined cycling shoulders with rumble strips. The best of its kind in Ontario. The event had an estimated economic impact of $475,000 and successfully showcased tourism in Northern Ontario. The next step is to develop 2-3 day Drive-And-Ride itineraries for all the communities and to continue developing the cycling route infrastructure in connector communities like on St. Joseph Island, regional communities in Sudbury and north of Sault Ste. Marie, Manitoulin Island and many others. Given the success of DNO to date, there is no doubt this success will continue!