In a historic return to the town’s roots, Midland council waived a fee bylaw to allow a collective of cyclists the pleasure of enjoying overnight in Little Lake Park this summer.
As part of an expansion of the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail into Simcoe County, a six-day cycle tour called the ‘Great Waterfront Trail Adventure’ (GWTA) will be passing through Midland on August 8 and 9, with an anticipated 160 participants involved.
Coun. Bill Gordon spoke to the matter during a recent regular council meeting.
“There’s going to be 160 participants that are mostly mature cyclists from five provinces and five U.S. states. And about 50 per cent of them apparently are going to be staying in hotels,” said Gordon. “But the other half have requested to camp. And what that’s going to mean – we had to clear the way with some changes to our bylaw and enforcement.”
The two bylaws waived by council are the open-air burning bylaw, and the bylaw regulating municipal parkland prohibitions involving camping, littering, campfires, and similar items.
Anticipating between 35 to 50 tents on the days, the GWTA worked with town staff to ensure they would be keeping things clean and proper.
“This is an organization that I think has been wonderful to work with,” expressed CAO David Denault.
“Everything I’ve heard from our team is they’ve been very responsive, they’ve been very responsible in terms of how they’re approaching this. So they’re taking care of all the logistics around this; the security, (and) anything they need to ensure that they’re taking care of whatever they bring in the facility, but also taking care of the space.”
The campfires for the collective would be permitted only in the area they are designated to stay – on the south side of the volleyball courts – and pending the fire rating on those two dates.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn commented that without campfires or cooking, the cyclists would be breakfasting at the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre where they will also be storing their equipment overnight.
“Simcoe County has been putting a lot of effort into increasing the visibility of Simcoe’s trail network and expanding it, and tapping into the whole cycle movement particularly through Quebec and along the St. Lawrence and Lower Lakes,” said Strathearn.
“It’s an opportunity to look at perhaps a trial balloon in terms of heritage uses of Little Lake Park and expanding our visibility throughout the biking community.”
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail is a legacy initiative evolved from a 1992 commission recommendation by the Hon. David Crombie. Through the Simcoe County expansion, 255 kilometres including cycling loops Big Chute and Thunder Beach were added last summer to the 3,600 kilometre trail stretching from Quebec to Lake Superior.
In 2019, the GWTA had an estimated $143,000 of economic impact to local communities and associated overnight hosts.
Denault added, “I think it is a great example of how this type of economic benefit, as well as use of a beautiful site, can be just another attraction for Midland.”
Gordon noted the approval by Coun. Cody Oschefski as something the two had discussed beforehand.
“This is like a proof-of-concept... reverting some of the historic uses of Little Lake Park.” stated Gordon. “And here’s a perfect example where there’s an event coming to town and people want to avail themselves of our beautiful Little Lake Park and that nice soft grass, and that’s going to be happening this summer.”
The Great Lakes Waterfront Trail report for Little Lake Park is available in full in the council agenda on the Town of Midland website.
Further information on the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure is available on the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail website.
Council meetings are held every third Wednesday, and can be attended virtually through Zoom by contacting the clerk’s department of Midland town hall for a link to the meeting.
Council meetings can also be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53, or through the livestream on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available through Rogers TV and on the Town of Midland’s YouTube channel.