Park to Park urges support for regional trail system
Huntsville resident Jim McCaffery hits a scenic recreational trail overlooking Fairy Lake on Sunday, Oct. 21. Several residents were out biking, hiking or walking dogs over the weekend, making routes like the Park to Park Trail and this one popular.
HUNTSVILLE – With the town counting every penny this budget season, a recreational trail association says it will appreciate whatever support the municipality is willing to give.
Jack Tynan, president of the Park to Park Trail Association, spoke to Huntsville’s corporate services committee on Oct. 11 about the benefits of continued support for the 230 kilometer multi-use trail that links Killbear Provincial Park and Algonquin Provincial Park.
“The trail was a project spearheaded by a collection of municipalities 12 years ago. It’s reaching a point now where it has gathered real momentum,” said Tynan.
While he said he recognized all funding requests would be heavily scrutinized given the economic climate, he asked that councillors consider renewing the $3,000 commitment the town made to the association last year in its upcoming budget.
The town is also in the process of developing a study through a partnership with Ryerson University to identify active transportation needs in the municipality. The Park to Park Trail is an active transportation system.
“While all organizations like us recognize that if you have a good product and you have a good approach, there’s lots of potential for capital, it’s difficult when it comes to operations,” said Tynan. “The municipalities and trail pass sales are the two components that allow for our operational costs.”
Without municipal funding for operational costs for staff, office space and other operational needs, the association would be unable to leverage capital funding opportunities for various organizations and groups in the region, he said.
“The return on (council’s) investment for our region is very significant,” he said. “I hope the returns could be even greater, but at this point we’re able to proudly tell our municipal partners the investment is worthy.”
Tynan explained the trail is a tourism draw that entices people from across the province, especially from the Greater Toronto Area, to visit the region. All-terrain vehicle users are also increasing in numbers on the trail, though it is also used for walking, cycling, horse riding, dog sledding, dirt biking, and snowmobiling.
“We know that most motorized trail users are not from our area,” said Tynan as he emphasized the trail’s role in regional economic development and recreational tourism. Tynan said the association is working on a strategic plan it intends to unveil to council in the near future. The plan is based on the vision of making the Park to Park Trail not only one of the most highly regarded multi-use trails in Canada, but also one that creates a substantial economic benefit to its surrounding communities.
And partnerships are enhancing the trail’s appeal, he said.
In 2012, the association secured $178,000 for east end trail improvements from a snowmobile club and hammered out a partnership with the Algonquin West ATV Club that gives users access to the club’s 300-kilometers of trails.
Marketing initiatives through Explorer’s Edge, website enhancements, branding and trail signs are also underway.
Tynan said the association’s plan is to continue to focus on the east end of the trail next year to increase the number of users.
He said the west end was a popular destination for trail users because of convenient, recognizable trail access and proximity to services and accommodation.
“Our goal is to recreate that somehow on the Highway 11 end,” he said. “If we can, at the very least, double the volume of traffic on the trail, we’re doubling the economic return and we’re adding more economic return to this end.”
East end improvements would include a Highway 11 access point and marketing initiatives to increase trail awareness, usage and overall economic growth in the region.
Though the system is largely trails on the west end, the east end through Huntsville is mostly road-based.
Councillors said they would consider the association’s request during 2013 budget deliberations.