Cyclists gear up for tenting journey in Midland park

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“Another draw for Midland,” CAO says after the city council waived the bylaw to allow Little Lake Park camping for Great Waterfront Trail Adventure riders

In a historic return to the city’s roots, Midland City Council waived a fee ordinance to allow a collective of cyclists the pleasure of staying at Little Lake Park this summer.

As part of an extension of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail into Simcoe County, a six-day Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA) bike tour will pass through Midland August 8-9 and is expected to attract 160 participants.

count. Bill Gordon recently spoke on the matter during a regular council meeting.

“There will be 160 participants who are mostly mature cyclists from five provinces and five US states. And about 50 percent of them will apparently be staying in hotels,” Gordon said. “But the other half asked to camp. And what that will mean – we had to clear the way with some changes to our bylaws and enforcement.”

The two ordinances the council is waiving are the open-air burning ordinance and the ordinance regulating urban parkland bans on camping, rubbish, campfires and similar items.

Expecting 35 to 50 tents a day, the GWTA worked with city staff to ensure they would keep things clean and tidy.

“I think it has been wonderful to work with this organization,” said CAO David Denault.

“All I’ve heard from our team is that they’ve been very responsive, they’ve been very accountable in their approach. So they take care of all the logistics about it; the security, (and) everything they need to make sure they take care of whatever they bring into the facility, but also the space.

The campfires for the collective would only be allowed in the area where they are intended to remain – on the south side of the volleyball courts – and pending the fire evaluation on those two dates.

Mayor Stewart Strathearn commented that without campfires or cooking, the cyclists would have breakfast at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Center, where they would also store their gear overnight.

“Simcoe County has gone to great lengths to increase and expand the visibility of Simcoe’s trail network and open up the entire bicycle movement, particularly through Quebec and along St. Lawrence Lake and Lower Lake,” Strathearn said.

“It’s an opportunity to perhaps look at a trial balloon in relation to Little Lake Park’s historic use and expand our visibility throughout the cycling community.”

The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is a legacy initiative that grew out of a 1992 commission recommendation by the Hon. David Crombie. Simcoe County’s expansion last summer added 155 miles to the 2,200-mile trail that stretches from Quebec to Lake Superior, including the Big Chute and Thunder Beach bike trails.

In 2019, the GWTA had an estimated $143,000 in economic impact on local communities and associated overnight hosts.

Denault added, “I think it’s a great example of how that kind of economic benefit, as well as taking advantage of a beautiful location, can be just another attraction for Midland.”

Gordon noted Coun’s agreement. Cody Oschefski as something the two had previously discussed.

“This is like a proof of concept…some of Little Lake Park’s historical uses have been reversed,” explained Gordon. “And here’s a perfect example where an event comes to town and people want to take advantage of our beautiful Little Lake Park and beautiful soft grass, and that’s going to happen this summer.”

The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail report for Little Lake Park is available in full in the Council Agenda on the City of Midland website.

For more information on the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, visit the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail website.