Provincial Discussions on Trails

DOUG REYNOLDS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NOTO

Several years back, the Ontario government began to look seriously at the value of recreational trails in the province. It began in the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation with the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Trails. The recreation part of the Ministry of Tourism and Recreation subsequently moved over to the new Ministry of Health Promotion, and this initiative has continued and developed there.

"NOTO has been an active participant in this project since the beginning, first as a member of the tourism minister’s advisory committee on trails, and now on the Ontario Trails Coordinating Committee of the Ministry of Health Promotion."

It is worth noting that throughout this project’s history in both ministries, we have looked at a wide range of trail uses, from ATVing and snowmobiling to hiking and horseback riding. We have also considered a wide range of trail types, from pathways in large cities to waterway trails such as canoe routes.

Throughout the discussions, a number of recurrent themes have emerged. We constantly look at the question of how we can effectively facilitate but separate incompatible activities, primarily motorized and non-motorized ones. Insurance concerns, and volunteer and property owner liability issues are other major topics we continue to discuss.

Because this is a provincial committee, many of the issues raised have a focus that is much more relevant to southern Ontario. The agriculture community has many trespass and private property concerns, for example. Other concerns, such as recruiting and retaining volunteers affect northern snowmobile clubs as much as southern hiking groups.

One thing we all have very much in common is the view that trails and the outdoor activities that they promote have a wide range of benefits. Trails are good for public health, good for quality of life and good for tourism. I happen to believe that one of the major benefits of this initiative is an indirect one. I believe that trails and outdoor activity are an important part of creating tomorrow’s customers.

The young urban couple that walks the lakefront trails in Toronto is much more likely to move on to a day or two hiking the Bruce Trail with their kids and later to camping and lodge trips. I very much doubt that a family of couch potatoes has the same market potential. People who enjoy nature and the outdoors are also much more likely to be sympathetic to many of the issues facing our industry, such as sound environmental and land use planning.

NOTO is proud to have been invited to sit on this important committee and encouraged by the work being done. Not only have we been able to make sure our unique northern and crown land perspectives are heard, but we also continue to play a part in developing and encouraging an initiative that is good for us all.


This article was taken from page 25 of NOTO's "The Outfitter" publication, Spring 2007 Issue

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