By Sue Tiffin
As Eric Weis shared photos of trails that stretch between towns around and through cities and over bodies of water attendees at the Toronto to Algonquin Greenway summit leaned closer sometimes gasping at the results of work done to build and restore trail systems for public use.
Weis is former director of greenway development of the East Coast Greenway Alliance a 3000-mile biking and walking trail that leads from Maine to Florida is now an independent consultant in New England and was the keynote speaker at the summit. His work over 20 years mirrors the efforts being made by the TAG committee which includes Pamela Marsales Ute Wright Tammy Rea Kate Butler and Jewelle Schiedel-Webb in establishing the Toronto to Algonquin Greenway a hike-bike-paddle route connecting Toronto and Algonquin Park.
At the summit held at Sir Sam’s Ski and Bike on Nov.4 which brought together inaugural partners of the international sustainable travel route Weis noted trails that run through more than a couple dozen significant cities including Boston Portland Washington D.C. New York City and Miami and acknowledged that the urban trails might be more well-known than the rural trails but are connected to smaller “rail towns” bringing people to and through small towns.
“The label East Coast Greenway it’s an identity for the entire system but for every mile of that route there is a local trail which is used by people living in the neighbourhoods nearby to get to school or get some exercise or to have a place to meet up with their friends and these people might not even know that their local trail is part of the national system. They might refer to it as the West Ashley Greenway or they may call it the Raleigh River Trail but all together it creates this family of trails and by adding this new layer this new identity on top of that it creates added benefits.”
Weis noted the commitment to restoring and maintaining trails is palpable but said the benefits including supporting economic input and businesses in “trail towns” raising property value of homes alongside the trail encouraging “green” tourism and preserving historic routes and rail routes are numerous.
“You don’t have to push people to understand that these wonderful wonderful trail systems with enormous numbers of people coming through particularly in the warmer months enjoying the biking and walking and the landscaping … you don’t have to tell people twice that this is something they need to take advantage of” said Weis. “I don’t think you even have to tell them once.”
The attendees at the event included the executive director of Ontario by Bike and the Parkbus owners of lodges and bed and breakfasts along the TAG route local tourism and economic development representatives and enthusiasts who identified as Haliburton rail trail cyclists.
“TAG Summit 2019 represented a leap of faith on the part of a little committee in Haliburton” said Marsales after the event. “We dared to imagine we could invite dozens of champions and potential partners over two days to propel our Toronto-Algonquin Greenway concept closer to reality.”
Marsales said that while representation from each portion of the route might not have been in attendance at the event “they have indicated their intention to be involved as we move into 2020.”
The event also included Kevin Callan presenting on the TAG canoe route Randy Pielsticker on cycling worldwide and group discussions.
For further information visit or visit Toronto-Algonquin Greenway on Facebook.
A seven-minute film TAG Along the Greenway that was filmed and edited by Rodney Fuentes of Explore Origins Films is available for viewing via the TAG Facebook page .