Trailhead North – connecting northern trails, connecting northern communities!

Developing regional trail network can have tourism benefitsLOCAL

Area trail development coordinator Kirsten Spence says developing a regional trail network can help boost tourism.

Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com
Area trail development coordinator Kirsten Spence says developing a regional trail network can help boost tourism.

By Matt Vis, tbnewswatch.com

THUNDER BAY — An area trail development coordinator sees a vast amount of untapped potential in Northwestern Ontario.

Kirsten Spence gave a presentation to the Thunder Bay District Municipal League and said trails are overlooked when it comes to their ability to enhance regional tourism.

“They’re an excellent product that’s already developed which can be used to keep people half a day long or an hour longer in a community, that’s a success,” Spence said.

“A lot of municipalities are looking at trail development as a way to diversify their economies moving from single sector to multi sectors. Trails are one of those offerings that can help municipalities with attraction.”

She said there’s an extensive inventory of existing trails through Northwestern Ontario that can all play a part in showcasing the region.

There’s already evidence showing trails can serve as an attraction.

“You look at the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. That park has a lot of trails and that’s a large reason why people visit that park,” she said.

Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey has been working on developing both local and regional trail development strategies as a tourist draw.
Having a network benefits the entire region.

“What people have to realize is if you have one good tourist attraction you’ll get some people to come in for a day,” Harvey said. “If you have attractions through a whole region people will stay an awful lot of longer and that money they spend is not only multiplied, it’s multiplied exponentially.”

Development is ongoing with the Kinghorn Rail Trail, which would use a discontinued rail corridor to provide a path from Thunder Bay to Nipigon.

Spence said the project is a “work in progress” as developers are trying to get it right.

“Most people aren’t going to travel the 111 kilometre trail at one time,” she said. “We have to make sure it’s well planned out in terms of access areas and logical starts and stops.

Harvey sees the Kinghorn Rail Trail, which has been discussed since 2005, as having the potential to be a significant draw.

“That could easily become a world-class trail where people would come from around the world for things like the Pass Lake Trestle, the incredible vistas and views, the lakeside experience you can have on that trail,” Harvey said.

The rails have already been cleared from the trail while the ties are in the process of being removed. There are also a number of hurdles which need to be cleared, which Spence hopes an upcoming Provincial Trails Act will help address.

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Petition captures support – No traps on trails

http://www.intelligencer.ca/2015/02/09/petition-captures-unexpected-support

When Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry Bill Mauro reported to work Monday morning, he was likely trapped with more than 34,000 e-mails.

As of Monday afternoon, more than 38,500 people had signed the ‘No Traps On Trails’ petition, requesting Mauro to prevent more animal deaths on Ontario trails due to baited kill-trap (Conibear) set up near all-season multi-use trails.

The issue struck a nerve for Buckhorn residents Valerie Strain and her husband last December when their dog George’s head got caught in a trap located on Crown land, just a few feet from a side trail near their cottage and within 20 feet of a popular snowmobile/ATV trail.

Buckhorn is about 40 kilometres north of Peterborough.

“He died a slow death, while I struggled unsuccessfully to free him,” said Strain, who launched the online petition a week ago.

She noted the ministry (MNRF), through the area’s local conservation officer, was informed of what happened to George and investigating.

“However, they told us that there are no rules about how close to trails the trap can be set and no requirement to notify the public that they are there,” she added.

“There does not seem to be any way for the public to find out where traplines are. They could be anywhere on Crown land, on your neighbour’s property, even in provincial parks and you wouldn’t know.”

Ontario Tourism is currently running ads that show a family cross-country skiing, while their dogs run off-leash beside them.

“Where is it safe to do that?” asked Strain.

She and her husband no longer feel secure anywhere except on their own property.

The petition also hit the web in light of a similar incident where a dog was killed in Stirling after its head became stuck in a Conibear trap, near the Heritage Trail in mid-December 2014.

There, the “kill-trap” was set within 30 feet of the trail.

Stirling-Rawdon Police Chief Dario Cecchin stated the day following the incident a man was walking his mid-sized dog off-leash on the trail at the time.

“Keeping dogs on leash will keep them safe from traps, predators and from becoming lost,” Cecchin then stated. “Also, trappers need to understand and obey their obligations under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.”

Strain and her husband both grew up in rural areas. The couple had no idea of the risk they were taking every time they took their dogs out on the trail across their home.

“One of our responsibilities as pet owners is to keep them safe,” she said. “We failed George in that regard.”

With ‘No Traps On Trails’, Strain wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to another family pet, “or worse” to a child out on a walk with their parents.

To prevent more deaths on Ontario trails and improve the safety of everyone sharing public outdoor spaces, Strain and thousands of supporters urge MNRF to launch a public awareness campaign about the danger to pets and people from active traps and improve trapping practices and regulations.

“Including publishing maps online that show registered trapline areas, setting a minimum distance from public trails and marking trails that run close to traplines,” she said.

While Strain is not surprised by the number of online signatures captured within a week, she did not expect her initiative would escalate “so quickly”. The couple think they have found a middle ground between those who support trapping and those who don’t.

“I think it struck a nerve,” she said.

“I think people care about this. They think the request that we’ve made to the MNRF is reasonable. Even people that support trapping can get behind this.”

Jolanta Kowalski, senior media relations officer with MNRF, says there are steps dog owners like Strain can take to ensure their dogs are not impacted by legally set traps.

“The most important step is keeping control of your pet at all times by keeping your dog leashed,” she said in an e-mail to The Intelligencer.

“I offer my condolences to anyone who has lost a pet under such circumstances.”

She noted MNRF officials will consider any recommendations brought forward that might ultimately reduce the chance of a pet being caught in a trap.

The MNRF’s website has detailed information about trapping laws and practices in Ontario. More information can be found here.

jerome.lessard@sunmedia.ca