Where Land Meets Water: Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and Lake Superior Water Trail Unite

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Today cyclists and paddlers celebrated the connection between two of Ontario’s finest trails –the Lake Superior Water Trail and the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail. A 380 kilometer cycling extension from Sudbury to Gros Cap Marina Park, and a 1,000 kilometer accessible water trail from Gros Cap Marina Park to Fisherman’s Park, Thunder Bay has been completed just in time for Canada’s sesquicentennial. About 80 enthusiastic people representative of dignitaries, First Nations, recreational groups, paddlers, hikers, and cyclists attended the inaugural ribbon cutting at Gros Cap Marina Park today.

Below are a few comments from individuals that attended this morning’s festivities.

“The original name of this village is Nimkiiwaabkong- it means ‘the Thunderbird’s resting spot’, it is the rocks at the edge of the water. The thunder comes from the West and it comes to clean the earth and protect us. After that long journey across the Lake, the Thunderbirds rest here. That’s what my Dad was telling me this morning. He’s 96 years old.” ~Chief Dean Sayers, Batchawana First Nations (right)
“It’s important that we talk about the relationship between the different peoples that come to use this land, as well as our relationship to the land and the water. Cultural stories are very significant and people have a different view when they have some information. It’s really important that we do these things both First Nations and non First Nations people, that we establish the bond of friendship, sharing, and the role of stewardship of water and land.” ~Shirley Horn, Chancellor, Algoma University (left)

“I’m super excited that this beautiful day brings people out to the area to enjoy beautiful Lake Superior, paddling and cycling, all Nations connected to the largest freshwater lake in the World.” ~Joanie McGuffin, Executive Director, Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy, writer and conservationist.
“The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is 2100 km long and it starts at the Quebec border and it goes all the way to Grand Bend, and then it skips up and this is the first northern Section between Lake Superior and Sudbury. So for us this connection is historic because it allows us to touch Lake Superior. And we have to change modes! So you change modes and you grab your paddle. We were just so impressed with the Lake Superior Water Trail, and frankly with the Great Trail people for investing in this unique way to experience the largest great lake. We know that cycling is growing in leaps and bounds, so the opportunity to connect people to a cycling route that would take them land base along the Great Lakes coastline, along the Lake Huron north channel was going to be very powerful. We’re expanding that trail and we’re currently working on closing the gap between Northern and Southern Ontario. By next summer you’ll be able to cycle from here all the way to Quebec along the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, much of it which has been designated as the Great Trail. The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail was established 25 years ago and it was designed to protect, connect and celebrate the Great Lakes. There are over 114 communities of First Nations participating in it. ~Marlaine Koehler, Executive Director, Waterfront Regeneration Trust (centre)

The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail begins at Grand Bend to Sudbury. The 380 km extension runs from Sudbury to Gros Cap. “The project involved extensive community engagement. We worked with communities to pick a route that was optimal to keep cyclists off Highway 17 when it was feasible. We tried to use low volume roads where we could. Twenty-six communities were involved. It took a lot of coordination and there’s a lot of pride coming out because of this.” ~Dave Meyer, Coordinator, Waterfront Regeneration Trust (right)

“My husband and I kayak and we’ve always looked for boat ramps to launch the kayaks but this opens up so much more terrain and waterfront for us to be able to use. This makes it so much easier for people with physical disabilities to access the water. Also, these accessible kayak docks include accessible bathrooms which is a really big deal. It’s one thing to be able to get out into nature and be able to enjoy what our beautiful area has, but if you can’t use a bathroom anywhere nearby, you avoid these things.” ~Diane Morel, Regional Services Coordinator, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

“The economic potential is great. We have all the Americans and this goes all the way up to Thunder Bay and if they start canoeing that would be great. We have a beautiful township and now we just need to get everyone out here to canoe and cycle. We’re putting in a Farmer’s Market, pavilion, basketball nets and cultural centre. In the winter we’ll have an outdoor rink. We’ll have washrooms so we’re hoping people will cycle to us, or canoe to this spot and hop on a bike and cycle to us. There’s a lot of progress for a town of eleven hundred people.” ~Ken Lamming, Reeve, Prince Township

“This is an economic opportunity by bringing new cyclists and paddlers to the area but it really provides us an opportunity to showcase what we have to offer here. It also promotes healthy lifestyle options, it gives opportunities for families to come out and enjoy a day either cycling or paddling. What an opportunity to put Gros Cap and the North Superior area on the map!” ~ Mike Mantha, Algoma-Manitoulin MPP (right)

“One thousand kilometers of a water trail and a cycling trail dedicated along the highways is awesome. We needed a safe trail for people cycling across the country. Now maybe people will come to cycle that specific area. It is becoming an exciting time to see what is happening with trails in this area. I’m also happy to announce that the Trailhead North Conference will be hosted in Sault Ste. Marie this year.” ~ Carole Blaquiere, President Voyageur Trail Association

“It’s a dream come true to have this designated water trail. It’s not just about a trail across Canada, it’s also a trail around the entire circumference of Lake Superior. The water has always been here but now the communities are involved and this is a fantastic turnout. In 1989, Joanie and I paddled around the Lake. That fall we started the Inland Sea Society and the goal back then, was to create a water trail to go around the entire circumference of Lake Superior. Today, has finished that loop. You have this vision that you are pioneering a route, but the route has been there for thousands of years. What we do is create an awareness for the fact that it’s here. And that’s our motto – get people out to love a place and then they’ll defend it. But in order to defend it they have to come and see it, feel their paddle stroke with paddle strokes from thousands of years ago, feel their heartbeat in unison with the heartbeats from years ago, to the present to the future. Spiritually you can gain from that. And that’s what you have to do- capture a person’s mind, heart and their soul. And then they’ll defend a place.” ~Gary McGuffin, Vice-President, Lake Superior Watershed Conservancy, photographer and conservationist.

The Clivus Multrum composting toilet is environmentally friendly, and just as important- accessible for all physical abilities.

Gary McGuffin (and Luna) demonstrate the accessible docking feature located at the Gros Cap Marina. Those with mobility concerns can easily board their boats!

Celebrants loading into one of two Voyageur canoes for a paddle around the Gros Cap bluffs.

Where the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and the Lake Superior Water Trail meet. Cyclists and paddlers greet one another at Gros Cap Marina Park.

It’s official! The ribbon cutting represents the connection to water, all life and all Nations; the water’s connection of trails to cycling, hiking and paddling; and the connection between local, provincial and national efforts.

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