Orillia eyes cycling tourism
By Frank Matys Orillia Today
Orillia holds untapped potential as a destination for cyclists and a share of the substantial dollars they bring to communities, council heard this week.
“Orillia has amazing trails,” said Brendan Matheson, of Cycle Simcoe. “They have an amazing network, but they have a great opportunity to develop the tourism aspect, for sure.”
Cycle Simcoe is a tourism initiative that aims to steer two-wheeled enthusiasts onto area trails and into local communities.
It is a countywide strategy involving the Barrie/Simcoe Cycling Club, Tourism Simcoe County and Oro-Medonte Township, where the project was initially tested.
“The goal is to make cycling more safe, more memorable and more fun, county-wide,” Matheson told Orillia council during a presentation.
The cycle-centric group recently produced a map identifying safe cycling routes in the Lake Country region, which includes Orillia.
“Then we sign those routes to make sure everybody knows where they are going,” Matheson said. “The next part is to develop a safety and education campaign to make sure that everybody is riding safe out there.”
Cycling tourism is a lucrative enterprise that brings in more than $390 million annually in Ontario, Matheson added.
“It’s pretty incredible,” he said.
The group secured $3,000 from the city of Orillia to assist with printing expenses and online development of routes, in addition to in-kind support such as signage installation and safety messaging.
“Obviously, we will have to promote it after that,” Matheson added.
The group has produced 10,000 maps, which will be distributed through Tourism Simcoe County and at bike shops in the GTA.
Orillia-area trails identified on the route map include the Lake Country/Oro-Medonte rail trail, the Uhthoff Trail and the Ramara trail.
Cyclists are additionally pointed to local amenities and attractions.
“We don’t really want them to come up, ride and go home,” Matheson said. “We want them to ride and we want them to stay a night, we want them to spend money and (experience) our culture and all that fun stuff as well.”
The Ontario Trillium Foundation, Tourism Simcoe County and RTO7, a regional tourism organization, provided funding and project support.