Jim Ivey is excited to be exploring some new roads.
The Oakville resident is part of a group of cyclists now touring the Simcoe County Loop section, which recently became part of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail that stretches from Sault Ste. Marie in the north to Leamington in the southwest to the Québec border.
“I love the freedom you get from cycling as well as the endorphin fix and camaraderie,” says Ivey, who was just one of the many members of a group called the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure riders gathered in Penetanguishene Tuesday afternoon to help officially launch the new connecting trail system from Simcoe County to the larger trail system.
“This is my sixth year doing this (the Great Lakes route) and each year has been an amazing adventure and allowed me to explore new areas. You get to see places you’d never see if you were in a car.”
And while the riders don’t carry the typical assortment of loaded panniers, tents and sleeping bags affixed to their bikes as some cyclists, Ivey says it’s a great way to travel, given the amount of support they receive with trucks carrying their supplies and offering food and first aid from one stop to the next.
“CAA is also a wonderful partner,” he says, referring to the automobile association that helps bikers when they’re having mechanical issues and can’t ride.
“It’s very well organized and we're usually welcomed in a new place with red-carpet treatment.”
But it's no wonder the red carpet is typically rolled out, given how much a revenue generator cycling has become. It creates a wide array of economic spin-offs as riders travelling from town to town shop at local stores, eat restaurants and pay for accommodations, according to Brianne Harris, experience development coordinator with Tourism Simcoe County.
“We are here launching the (local) experience today of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail,” Harris says, noting the trail used to end at Blue Mountain.
According to Harris, data collected by her organization indicated there were 159,000 “unique” riders touring county trails and roads last year with roughly 60 percent of those cyclists coming from away.
“Cyclists are wonderful for our economy and we have seen massive numbers of cyclists come to Simcoe County for multi-day rides,” she says, noting cyclists accounted for 2,600 hotel stays in 2021 with many coming from La Belle Province.
Stretching over 3,600 kilometres, the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is a signed route of interconnected roads and trails linking over 150 communities along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes.
In Simcoe County, meanwhile, the trail is a 255-kilometre, multi-day bike tour. Now fully signed and mapped, the route follows kilometres of roads and trails hugging the Georgian Bay coastline and drifting through rural Simcoe County, and even parts of Muskoka.
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