Provincial group assesses cycle tourism in MM

Chris George

On Tuesday June 4th a group of cyclists from across the province rolled through Mississippi Mills assessing the ride-ability of the Ottawa Valley Recreational Trail (OVRT) and the tourist amenities and attractions in our community. The cyclists were part of the Voyageur Route Mobile Workshop, which was test riding over 200 km of a route and visiting 16 eastern Ontario communities. The workshop was designed to both assess the cycle trail and to build awareness of the Voyageur Route’s tourism and economic development potential with community leaders along the route.

As part of a province-wide network of trails, the Voyageur Route is a cycling experience spanning over 645 kilometers, connecting 29 northern and rural communities from Sudbury to Ottawa. Cyclists follow the path of the voyageurs along the great waterways that supported transportation and trade for several thousand years. The Voyageur Route travels through Lanark County on the OVRT and the TransCanada trail.

Jennifer McCourt of Discovery Routes in North Bay led the group of cyclists in the mobile workshop, which began Monday June 3rd in Ottawa and ended Thursday June 6th in Petawawa. Each morning commenced with a series of presentations to local community and business leaders. Tuesday’s breakfast meeting was held at the Grand Hotel in Carleton Place. Cyclists and community guests were welcomed by Lanark County Warden Richard Kidd and Carleton Place Councillor Linda Seccaspina. Mississippi Mills Mayor Christa Lowry also spoke of the economic development opportunities cyclist tourists bring to the area.

Mayor Lowry was also on hand to greet the cyclists to Almonte where they stopped for brief orientation sessions at the Friendship Oven and again on Mill Street before traversing the Riverwalk and resuming the ride to Pakenham.

One of the features of the Tuesday ride was discussing the potential of a new cycle trail that is being established this year – the Friendship Trail ~ Mississippi & Ottawa Rivers Cycle Loop. The Friendship Trail is a cycle loop connecting the City of Ottawa with Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills. A core of a dozen volunteers have blazed the trail and identified the amenities and attractions along the way. Learn more about the Friendship Trail on the Mississippi Mills Bicycle Movement website.

In Lanark County, the Friendship Trail uses the existing infrastructure of the TransCanada Trail out of Stittsville and the OVRT that lead cyclists from Carleton Place north to Arnprior. Marketing the cycling experience along the Friendship Trail is a good way to draw tourists and families from Ottawa – as well as provide a chance for visitors in our communities to bike on a safe route to see the Nation’s Capital. Cycle groups are encouraged to plan visits to Carleton Place and Mississippi Mills – eat in one of our wonderful restaurants, shop in our stores, enjoy our local heritage, and stay overnight at one of our fine B&Bs.

Cyclists are always searching for new adventures and trails that will showcase a mix of interesting attractions, heritage and natural beauty. In 2016 there were more than 1.6 million cycling visitors in Ontario who spent $517 million. Cycling tourists in Ontario stay longer than regular visitors and the majority of Ontario visits by cyclists are overnight (94%). A remarkable 43% of Ontario cyclists took three or more overnight trips in Ontario in the past two years.

A key economic development fact is that cycling visitors generally spend more on average per trip than other visitors, $317/trip for cycling tourists compared to $186/trip for total visitors.