Improved signage and better maps are just a couple of ways Thunder Bay can improve its trail system around the city and boost tourism, say trail cycling advocates.
Rachel Raven and her husband A.J. Strassen are on the Canada Trail Care Crew of the International Mountain Bicycling Association and took part in a Thunder Bay mountain biking group ride at Centennial Park on Sunday. They were hosted by the Blacksheep Mountain Bike Club.
Trail crew fast facts
The IMBA Canada Trail Care Crew is a dynamic two-person team of professional trailbuilders, educators, and enablers. Supported by Parks Canada and the Trans Canada Trail, the crew travels across the country year-round, getting Canadians of all ages outdoors, and educating them about sustainable trails.
Visits are free and open to all non-motorized trail users. They are hosted by IMBA-affiliated clubs, Parks Canada sites and Trans Canada Trail local, provincial, and territorial organizations.
Typical visits take place over four days and include a trail project assessment, an IMBA Trail Building School, a social night, and group ride. With more than 30 visits and events each year, the crews rely on local volunteers to help co-ordinate many of the details.
Source: International Mountain Bicycling Association Trail Care Crew
The pair is part of a nation-wide program to help communities improve trails for cyclists.
Raven said Thunder Bay is an ideal location for tourists with bikes.
"If you're driving across Canada, obviously you have to pass by through here," she said.
"It's a great place to get out … kind of stretch your legs … a natural stopping point ... especially for folks who are either camping on their summer vacation with their family or, specifically, mountain bikers [who want] ... a great riding experience. In a location like this, that has a lot of history to it as well, it's pretty neat."
Raven said one of the most important ways to attract mountain bikers is better signage and maps of the trails.
"Good signage and maps is really important," she said.
"Especially if you get to a place where you have never ridden before. If you don't have signage, it can be pretty disastrous being in the middle of nowhere and not knowing where you are. We [want] make sure that people are having a great time, are leaving with a smile on their face, and are telling other people, 'you should go to Thunder Bay and ride there, it's a great destination'."
Gerald Hamm of the Blacksheep Mountain Club said mountain-biking tourism is becoming more and more popular in the United States, and communities such as Duluth and Grand Marais are looking at trails as a tourist attraction. Hamm said it's also his long-term dream for Thunder Bay.