Early last month, Toronto-Algonquin Greenway (TAG) Coordinator Pamela Marsales made a pitch to the Millbrook Business Improvement Association (BIA) executive to encourage Millbrook to join communities along a series of routes connecting Pearson International Airport with Algonquin Park to draw environmentally-friendly tourist traffic to the area.
Greenway is a term describing routes, trails or natural corridors used in environmentally sustainable ways. They foster the preservation of natural and cultural heritage, provide options for safe transportation, recreation and tourism, and encourage a healthier lifestyle.
The TAG route is a 400+ km curated series of hike/bike/paddle routes between Toronto and Algonquin Park. It currently embraces 30 communities passing close by Millbrook. Following a model well-established in Europe and in some parts of the US, the TAG organization promotes “Slow Travel~Local Flavours” to welcome travellers, particularly international ones, to the area by linking existing rail trails, parks, paths and paddling routes to offer visitors a close-up view of the scenery, heritage and hospitality of communities along these routes.
Similar initiatives in Europe and in selected parts of the US have resulted in significant boosts to the local communities. Some well-established examples can be found in the Czech Republic, in the Wales Coast Path, Vias Veres in Spain, in the US along the Hudson River Valley, in Alleghany and in the East Coast originating in Florida. Closer to home, Quebec’s Route Verte established in 1995 provides a 5,000 km network of bike paths. These eco-friendly routes foster sustainable tourism, economic development, promote healthy outdoor recreation based on active, green transportation modes of travel and allow a slower tourist traffic the opportunity to appreciate local food, art, nature and culture. Towns, villages and hamlets along the way benefit from a new market of travellers who are mobile, environmentally sensitive and eager to enjoy local hospitality.
To draw significant tourist traffic, routes must provide amenities and services. Based on its location, history and charm, Millbrook has been identified as an ideal potential Tag Town to deliver on some of these fronts.
The Toronto to Algonquin Greenway (TAG) is the first greenway initiative in Ontario. The idea took root in Haliburton, at the intersection of a lake, a park and an art gallery- all ideal components for an appealing greenway route. Still in the early stages of development, TAG organizers face a lot of work ahead, but with 300+ kms of biking rail trails interspersed with hiking paths, canoe routes, nature parks and a vintage excursion train, they have established a solid foundation. They are now casting their nets in search of strategic partners to help them realize this opportunity.
Expect to hear more about this interesting initiative this fall at a meeting yet to be booked to establish the level of local interest and energy available to move this project forward. For more information, visit www.toronto-algonquingreenway.ca. KG