All trails eventually lead through Barrie.
The Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA) came to Barrie for the first time Thursday morning, as dozens of participating cyclists arrived at the waterfront’s Heritage Park in the downtown.
“These trails are the best way to discover Ontario and see all sorts of new things,” said Debbie Taylor of Rockwood, a small community outside Guelph, who’s been making the trek for a half-dozen years. “It’s also great to make new friends, get to see old friends.”
And see the sights, Taylor said, such as the Sea Serpent at Heritage Park and the Rotary Fountain at Centennial Beach in Barrie.
“I’d love to get out there in a kayak,” she said, pointing to Kempenfelt Bay.
The GWTA is an annual, supported, multiple-day tour and awareness ride to promote the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the communities which support it. The trail is a key part of a strategy to protect, connect and celebrate the earth’s largest group of freshwater lakes, the Great Lakes.
Richard Arnopolin, 68, a retired grocery clerk from Chicago, and his reclining trike have been on the adventure since the Blue Mountains and enjoys the tranquility.
“It’s kind of peaceful,” he said of the ride. “I prefer cycling on roads but every now and then a trail ride is a good alternative.”
At more than 3,600 kilometres, the trail is a route connecting 155 communities and First Nations along the Canadian shores of the Great Lakes.
In Simcoe County the trail is a 255-kilometre, multi-day bike tour, fully signed and mapped. It follows kilometres of roads and trails along Georgian Bay’s coastline, through rural Simcoe County and parts of Muskoka.
“The trail gives me a great opportunity to see new things and have a great experience and to be out here with everyone," said Taylor. “And the Sea Serpent is so awesome!”
Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman was on hand to address the cyclists before they hit the road again.
“You are going through central Ontario at the very best time of year,” he said, also mentioning there are 90 places to eat in the downtown. “Glad you got a good day.”
Lehman also said the city is trying to make Barrie cyclist friendly, that new streets are designed with bike lanes and the city opened a new bike lane on Hanmer Street recently.
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail consists of both on-road and off-road facilities.
About 30 per cent is off-road, along Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, with 14 per cent off-road on the Lake Erie, Detroit River and Lake Saint Clair section, and roughly four per cent is off-road along the North Channel between Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury.
The route is primarily paved, but there are sections of unpaved paths and gravel roads.
The trail is a signature project of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, a charity committed to protecting, connecting and celebrating the world’s largest body of fresh water.