There’s an all-new way to explore Ontario’s Greenbelt — on two wheels — launching later this summer.
The Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation is on the verge of unveiling its new Greenbelt Route, which creates one seamless cycling trail from the Niagara Region all the way around the Golden Horseshoe to Northumberland County in the east while highlighting hundreds of diversions to explore along the way.
Born of a desire to help people stay active while they discover all that the regions surrounding Toronto have to offer, the new route hopes to capitalize on what has become a burgeoning tourism segment.
“Cycling tourism is an incredibly growing industry,” says Burkhard Mausberg, chief executive officer of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation. “It’s now worth $300 million in Ontario alone per year.”
Mausberg says that the cycling tourism is being called “the new golf” and is particularly appealing to the same people who enjoy the golfing lifestyle.
“People in a certain age group — who can afford to cycle, can afford to stay in a B&B, can afford to eat in restaurants — are recognizing it’s great for their health to go out and be active,” Mausberg explains.
A cycling route through the Greenbelt seemed a natural fit for connecting such people with a part of the province that might otherwise be overlooked or thought of as too difficult to navigate.
“It’s one of those very special parts of Ontario,” Mausberg says. “It has all these great villages and hamlets, natural areas, working farms and on-farm markets, and historical sites. And it’s protected by law not to be paved over by subdivisions and industrial lands. We wanted people to actually get out and experience it.”
The grand opening of the new route will begin on Aug. 16, when hundreds of cyclists will be brought together to explore it over the course of the following week in an event being called the Great Greenbelt Adventure.
“We’ll take as many riders as want to participate,” Mausberg says. “We’re going to start in Northumberland, at the easternmost part of the route, and take it all the way around, travelling with hopefully hundreds of people from town to town. We’ll celebrate the end of it seven days later in Niagara with a big party.”
More information about the Great Greenbelt Adventure will be released in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, to explore the route, download and print maps, plan out an itinerary and much more, visit greenbelt.ca/route .
The Greenbelt Route
by the numbers
Freelance writer Stephanie Wallcraft is a frequent contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. For more Toronto Star Wheels stories, go to thestar.com/autos . To reach Wheels Editor Norris McDonald: firstname.lastname@example.org/autos
3: years of planning from conception to completion
27: municipalities the route passes through
475: kilometres of road needed to form the route
900: directional signs being installed for route guidance
1,100: points of interest identified on route maps from conservation areas to wineries, historical/natural sites and more
2,000,000:acres of land that comprise Ontario’s Greenbelt, which is the world’s largest at a size roughly equal to Prince Edward Island
Getting to the Greenbelt Route
The Greenbelt Route was planned to allow visitors not only to be active and environmentally conscious while using it but also in reaching it in the first place.
Riders from the Toronto area will be able to access the route car-free by travelling with their bikes via:
the Waterfront Trail
TTC (by taking the subway to Finch station and riding a Keswick-bound connecting route north)
GO Train (access the route directly from Georgetown, Stouffville, and St. Catharines stations, or indirectly from Acton, Aldershot, Aurora, Burlington, Hamilton, Newmarket, Niagara Falls, and Oshawa stations)
Via Rail (from St. Catharines, Grimsby, Port Hope, and Cobourg stations)
For those who prefer to reach the route by car, five staging areas will be set up with parking, tuck shops, information boards and route maps. A number of short, circular day-trip routes have also been integrated into the plans to help riders who prefer not to leave their vehicles overnight or would rather return to them without doubling back.
Planning your trip
The Greenbelt Route has been planned to meet the expectations of both the casual tourist and the experienced cyclist.
“We know we’re going to attract a lot of people in their spandex on their $2,000 bikes, and they will do it in two days,” Mausberg says. “But there are those who maybe want to take their family or friends and are going to make it seven days. It really depends what type of cyclist you are.”
Whichever type describes you best, you can plan out our trip by picking up a printed map or visiting greenbelt.ca/route , where you’ll find a detailed route map that lets you toggle different itineraries and points of interest such as natural features, cultural attractions, amenities like campgrounds and bike shops, restaurants and wineries, and much more.
There are also 36 separate maps that can be printed from the website that highlight various route segments and features.
“What we try to do is give you as many options as possible to let you have the choice of how you want to experience the Greenbelt on two wheels under your own power,” Mausberg says.