Sault biking trail system pegged to increase visitor night stay

Travis Anderson said the city’s goal is to create a trail system that attracts cycling tourists for two-to-three-day stays in the community, and that means adding more trails with rugged terrain, beautiful views, challenging rock cuts and Northern experience.

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Developing a 30-kilometer world class biking trail network that will attract visitors to the community will cost $ 2.25 million, city council heard Monday.

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“Mountain bike trails are a proven destination driver and are a great addition to Sault Ste. Marie’s tourism offerings and is a best bet product to support the growth of our local tourism industry, ”a report to council states.

City council approved allocating the Municipal Accommodation Tax of $ 187,183 to cycling infrastructure and a small portion of that for general product tourism development.

About $ 102,000 of the funding comes from the 2021 city share of the Municipal Accommodation Tax and the remaining $ 84,707 will come from the reserve.

Added to other funding envelopes, a total of $ 700,000 is committed to developing mountain bike trails at the city’s north end this year, said Travis Anderson, the city’s director of tourism and community development.

Anderson said it is expected that the majority of the planned work will be completed this year, but some may spill into next year.

“We’re in discussions now and evaluating bids of contractors and we’ll know more soon,” Anderson told The Sault Star. “We’re seeing strong cost escalation like all of the construction industry and we’re monitoring and evaluating that.”

Currently there are about 45 kilometers of available bike trails in Sault Ste. Marie.

Anderson said the city’s goal is to create a trail system that attracts cycling tourists for two-to-three-day stays in the community, and that means adding more trails with rugged terrain, beautiful views, challenging rock cuts and a Northern experience.

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“What we want to create is high-quality infrastructure that is sufficient for a two-to-three day stay,” he said.

The plan is to continue to build the infrastructure over the coming years as funding becomes available, eventually creating 60 to 100 kilometers of trail, for riders from novice to experienced levels.

A world-class trail offers great trail systems, amazing views and experiences and flow trails with linear pump tracks that are fun for riders, Anderson said. It also means having lookouts over scenic areas and lakes and enough volumes of different types of trails that allow riders to have different experiences and different types of riding every day.

The trail plan, in partnership with Kinsmen Park, will see a family oriented cycling network around the lodge area to the Crystal Creek trail system.

The trails will then move northeast to Farmer Lake, Crystal Lake and eventually Mabel Lake.

“The terrain we have here with the Canadian Shield, the rock features and the lakes make it challenging and exciting for riders,” he said.

Recent years have seen tremendous growth in the cycling industry, with growth soaring 300 percent according to Destination Northern Ontario statistics, Anderson said.

Statistics show that more than 2.4 million Canadians and 10.7 Americans cycled an overnight trip and stayed at a destination at least one night.

“People are willing to travel long distances to find and ride trails,” he said. “It’s a powerful tool to attract visitors and new residents.”

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Anderson said that last fall a group came to the area from Mississauga to ride the trails and some from that group returned in March and are considering moving to the community because of what it has to offer.

And it is not just adults who are growing the sport.

For the past five years the Sault Cycling Club has offered a Kids Shredding Singletrack program for ages 10 to 15 years.

In each of the five years, the program has seen growth from an initial 35 kids in 2018 to 105 registered participants this year.

The program demonstrates skills or techniques and allows participants to hone their skills through weekly sessions.

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