By Mike Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Haliburton’s Friends of the Rail Trail [FoRT] are hoping to kick-start a brand new annual event.
Pamela Marsales, a FoRT member, says the organization want to organize a family-friendly bike challenge that would take place during the second weekend in September. She spoke to Dysart Council last week to explain the group’s plans.
“The event will be after Labour Day and before Hike Haliburton – we’re just sneaking in there [when] there’s nothing else happening in the village,” Marsales said. “We believe this could become a signature event for Dysart and Haliburton, and can be developed almost as a self-guiding tour.”
The event itself was initially conceived around 10 years ago by Marsales herself, but a safe and complete route couldn’t be finalized. However, the opening of Barnum Creek Nature Reserve late in 2020 presented a new opportunity.
Outlining a route, Marsales says participants would begin in downtown Haliburton, by the skate park, before climbing the Sky Slider path. Travelling through the woods, bikers would eventually reach Skyline Park and continue on to Skyline Park Road, turn onto Parish Line through ‘Four Corners’ and go to the end of Cowan Road. Entering Barnum Creek through a “back gate”, riders will then travel along forestry road before reaching the Heritage Hike marked trail. They will then exit Barnum Creek, onto a multi-use trail – the site of Haliburton’s oldest pioneer road. This eventually transitions into Gould Crossing Road and, later, the Haliburton County Rail Trail. Eventually, after crossing Gelert Road, participants will come out near Haliburton Highlands Secondary School, cross Highland Street, and complete their ride by travelling along the shore of Head Lake, coming to a final stop at Head Lake Park.
“This is an opportunity to show how different routes in and around our community can be connected to create one big loop,” Marsales said.
Various community groups have already voiced their support for the event, including the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust, Rails End Gallery, Sir Sam’s Ski/Ride and both the Real Easy Ryders Cycling Club and Haliburton Highlands Trekkers.
The Haliburton Highlands Museum is also interested in taking part, largely in an attempt to shed some light on and educate participants on the various historical sites scattered throughout the loop.
“The crazy history of the Sky Slider, the history of a pioneer farm in Barnum Creek, and of course the oldest road in Haliburton – the unopened road allowance between Cowan Road and Gould Crossing Road,” Marsales said. “The museum really wants to help convey some of our local history.”
In operation since 2007, FoRT has regularly provided public programming to the community either free of charge, or for a nominal fee. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the group has had to cancel two seasons of its Sunday Rambles, which, Marsales says, is where they get most of their membership renewals.
“This is a first-time fundraiser for us. We’ve been around for a lot of years, and have always provided public programming for free, or very affordably. If we ever had to do a ticketed event, it was designed to break-even because we wanted to welcome the greatest number of people,” she said.
Marsales expects a registration fee for the ride will run around the $20 or $25 mark. All money raised will help support the Haliburton County Rail Trail Linear Park project.
Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts said the event has some potential.
“It seems a really great route… I’m sure it will be a very successful event. People will be looking forward to doing something fun like this in September,” Roberts said.
Council directed township staff to assist FoRT with planning the event.