By Darren Lum
The Friends of the Rail Trail are proud of their past educating about and endorsing the use of the Haliburton Rail Trail but also excited for the future with their Toronto to Algonquin Greenway (TAG) concept which will share the Highlands’ culture and benefit local tourism.
Friends co-founder Pamela Marsales spoke about the membership organization which started as part of the Haliburton County Community Cooperative at Re-Member FoRT a five-year retrospective on Sunday Feb. 7 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rails End Gallery in Haliburton.
This organization was active in policy discussion related to the Rail Trail and organized more than 50 events such as Dark Skies in the Lochlin Flats or the Ghost Railway Paddling Tour. Among them are the Sunday Rambles which invited people (and dogs) of all ages to not only walk portions of the Rail Trail but also learn about the history heritage and habitat of the area.
After a three-year hiatus the membership organization that works to connect the community to the Rail Trail is offering its Sunday Rambles again.
Friends started “almost by accident” in 2007 with Critters and Trestles at Camp Wanakita for 85 people. The event included live wild animals railway artifacts and stories related to the time when the trains were part of the transportation landscape.
The events start April 3 and will be held every week until the second Sunday in June. Distances vary but are up to six kilometres. The routes are “out and back” so walking pace is not important as everyone ends up at the same place. Although the Rambles group leave 11 a.m. participants are encouraged to come for 10:45.
Marsales describes them as “a cocktail party on the move” without the alcohol as children and dogs are welcome.
At this retrospective Marsales also spoke about the future for the organization.
Friends hopes she said to work with Haliburton County as a partner in bringing TAG a sustainable tourism route from Toronto to Algonquin Provincial Park. It will bring visitors and dollars to Haliburton County. The Sunday Rambles style event could be offered along TAG.
“TAG is a way to hike bike and paddle through Haliburton County and we need to apply for all kinds of major funding to really bring that vision to life” she said. “Friends of the Rail Trail can help with that within Haliburton County in terms of getting the message out.”
She adds this concept will have many partners except the Friends will be one of the major organizing partners within Haliburton County. Funding is needed for TAG but not the organization which is volunteer run.
She said at the recently held Slow Travel a series of events led by a traveller who shared their experiences while travelling on long trails.
One was the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) in the U.S. and another was the Otago Central Rail Trail in New Zealand.
“They started the same way TAG did. A few people having a vision and creating a lot of partnerships and eventually the world discovered it as a destination route and are flocking there now. That’s what we see happening here.”
The benefit of the slow travel experience on these trips was a cultural immersion but also a business opportunities for smaller communities that provided corresponding services to adventurers.
FoRT welcomes new and returning members – only $10 including non-members to events. Contact Pamela at 705-457-4767 or Pamela.Marsales@gmail.com for more information.