Making the Most of Manitoba’s Recreational Trails

On a chilly fall morning, Ruth Marr helps pack bikes for the first MRTA (Manitoba Recreational Trails Association) Border to Beaches Tour. Border to Beaches, or B2B, is a 370 km long portion of the TCT which comprises the world’s largest network. Stretching 22,000 km from coast to coast, Manitoba’s portion of the trail, including this stretch, is 1,400 km long. The B2B riders’ route will take them fom the windswept landscapes of Lake Winnipeg’s beaches to the Boreal Forests of eastern Manitoba. Along the way they will pass through the Old Pinawa Dam, Grand Beach and WhiteShell, as well as three provincial parks.

The first scheduled adventurers are members of a volunteer group who are eager to try out the new commercial tourism package. Seven volunteers from the MRTA are teaming up with the chairman of the national Trans Canada Trail (TCT), Jim Bishop. On September 22, they will venture out on a four-day, 225 km-long bike tour from Pine Falls to Falcon Lake. There are scheduled stops along the way at designated resorts, as well as meet-and-greets with local business people.

Volunteers Lead the Way

Provincial tourism agency Manitoba Travel hopes such eco-tourism initiatives will revitalize interest in exploring provincial resorts and the surrounding wilderness. As one of the dedicated volunteers instrumental in bringing this section of the trail to life, Ruth Mara couldn’t agree more. “You build it, you want to use it,” she says. “We’re having an opportunity to test some of the economic spin-offs from the trail.”

Now, for the first time in Manitoba, the network is scoping in their commercial focus to build up eco-tourism. The brains behind this commercial initiative is Roy Hildebrand, co-founder of WE Hike and Bike, an eco-tourism venture in Pinawa MB. “The Border to Beaches Trail is a dynamic asset right in our own backyard,” he says. “What the MRTA has done is provide a link, a network, for everyone who is associated with the trail, and there are seven groups along Border to Beaches, local business people. We want to engage them and promote their sections.”

Eco-Tourism Opportunity

Wayne Copet from Manitoba Travel said, “It’s the kind of thing we’ve been advocating. The province has invested a considerable amount in building the trail and it has tourism potential, as well as recreational potential, but that tourism’s potential hasn’t been realized. So when I look at a up-start company that will put the pieces together, it presents a huge opportunity.”

It’s an opportunity that Wilderness Edge Retreat and Conference Center in Pinawa is also poised to explore. Starting next spring, the Edge will be offering weekend-long tour packages of the TCT, ranging in price from $300-$500.