Trekkers test trails ecotourism potential
Ruth Marr helps pack bikes for the first MRTA (Manitoba Recreational Trails Association) Border to Beaches Tour. The first bunch of adventurers is a volunteer group to try out the new commercial tourism package for the eastern portion of the Trans Canada Trail in Manitoba. Seven volunteers from the MRTA are teaming up with the chairman of the national Trans Canada Trail (TCT), Jim Bishop. On Thursday September 22, they will venture out on a four day, 225km long tour from Pine Falls to Falcon Lake by bike.
“You build it, you want to use it,” said Ruth Marr, one of the volunteers instrumental in getting the section of the trail alive. “We’re having an opportunity to test some of the economic spin-offs from the trail.”
There are stops along the way at designated resorts as well as meet-and-greets with local business people. The trail association consists of a network of volunteers who raise money to maintain the TCT. For the first time in Manitoba, the network is scoping in their commercial focus to build up eco-tourism. The brains behind the commercial effort is Roy Hildebrand, co-founder of WE Hike and Bike, an eco-tourism venture in Pinawa MB.
“The Border to Beaches Trail is a dynamic asset right in our own backyard,” he said. “That the MRTA has done is provide a link, a network, for everyone who is associated with the trail and there are seven groups along Border to Beaches, local business people. We want to engage them and promote their sections.”
Based at the Wilderness Edge Retreat and Conference Center in Pinawa, the Edge is setting up weekend long tour packages ranging from $300-$500 to be ready for next spring.
B2B is a 370Km long portion of the TCT which at 22,000km from coast to coast, is the world’s largest network of trails. Manitoba’s portion of the trail is 1,400km long, including this stretch. B2B traces its route from sandy discreet landscape of Lake Winnipeg’s beaches to the Rocky Canadian Shield and Boreal forests of eastern MB. The trail spans through the Old Pinawa Dam, Grand Beach and WhiteShell, as well as three provincial parks. The provincial tourism agency of Maintoba Travel sees eco-tourism as a perfect fit to provincial resorts and the surrounding wilderness.
Wayne Copet from Manitoba Travel said, “It’s the kind of thing we’ve been advocating. The province has invested a considerable amount in building the trail and it has tourism potential, as well as recreational potential, but that tourism’s potential hasn’t been realized. So when I look at a up-start company that will put the pieces together, it presents a huge opportunity.”