In 2013, a new 620-kilometre section was officially added to the Waterfront Trail, opening up a golden tourism opportunity for the 27 waterfront communities along the route from Windsor to Fort Erie.
“We’re excited about showing off that part of Ontario,” says Marlaine Koehler, executive director of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, which promotes regeneration and the healthy, environmentally friendly use of Ontario’s waterfront. “Adding this link will create for Ontario one of the most exciting signature amenities — you can cycle all the way from Windsor to the Quebec border.”
The full distance? A mere 1,400 kilometres.
View the interactive map http://www.waterfronttrail.org/maps/interactive-map
The first section of the Waterfront Trail — a multi-use recreation trail that stays as close as possible to the shorelines of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border east of Cornwall — was opened in 1995. There are now 780 kilometres of signed trail connecting 41 communities, more than 180 parks and natural areas, 152 arts and culture heritage attractions, 37 major annual waterfront festivals and 170 marinas and yacht clubs.
The trust’s new 620-kilometre Lake Erie section is finally nearing completion, thanks to partners Carolinian Canada Coalition, Transportation Options and Share the Road, along with local municipalities.
The Lake Erie waterfront route, which also includes jogs north to Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, uses existing roads, many of which are known only to locals because of haphazard signage and lack of co-ordination. As an official Waterfront Trail route, the entire 620-km waterfront path will feature directional signs, with downloadable maps available online. Users will be encouraged to take advantage of Google maps to help them explore beaches, provincial parks, wineries, cafés, museums and other points of interest along their journey.
27 communities in the spotlight
“When you sign a route, it markets itself,” says Koehler, adding that the signs will help attract interest from passersby who may not have thought of cycling or hiking along the waterfront. “What this really does is showcase the towns along the route. It’s a way to get to places ... it’s the towns, the parks, the wineries.”
The Lake Erie Waterfront Trail will be an opportunity for the route’s 27 waterfront communities to show off — from the Lake Erie beaches in Fort Erie, Port Dover, Port Stanley and Erieau and the most southerly point in mainland Canada at Point Pelee National Park, to award-winning wineries in Leamington, Kingsville, Colchester and Amherstburg, and waterfront parks and marinas along the Detroit River in Windsor and Lake St. Clair in Tecumseh and Lakeshore.
Hundreds of cyclists are already chomping at the bit to try out the new Lake Erie section, which will be unveiled during the 2013 Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, an annual week-long cycling holiday that for the past five years has seen participants of all ages and fitness levels pedal their way from Niagara-on-the-Lake to the Quebec border. The event will move to the Lake Erie section next year and according to Koehler, “participants can hardly wait for something new.”
No doubt they will like what they see. The region received rave reviews in September 2011, when the trust held a mobile workshop in the area. “People were bowled over by what’s available on Lake Erie,” Koehler tells MyNewWaterfrontHome.com, adding that the Americans and Quebecers in the group were particularly excited about the cycling tour possibilities.
With the United States home to avid cyclists — they spend an estimated $47 billion a year — and Windsor on the border with Detroit, the tourism bucks are there for the taking. Koehler’s message to B&B, shop and restaurant owners along the route: get your business on Google maps!
'... will give Niagara a run for its money'
Windsor and Essex County are already on the cycling radar, thanks to the VIA bike train program, the off-road riverfront and Ganatchio trails in Windsor, the off-road 50-kilometre Chrysler Canada Greenway through Essex County and a popular seasonal wine trail ride. Combine that with plans for a county-wide network of on-road corridors and off-road trails and fantastic wineries and Koehler says this area “will give Niagara a run for its money.”
Koehler plans to be among the cyclists in the first ever 2013 Great Waterfront Trail Adventure from Windsor to Fort Erie. With the trail passing through 10 provincial parks, finding good camping spots for the night will be a breeze. For those who prefer more comfortable sleeping quarters, a list of B&Bs will be included in the cycling holiday details, which will be coming out soon. Check out the trail ride’s website
for the latest information.
MyNewWaterfrontHome.com — September 2012