Niagara Falls MPP Wayne Gates, Waterfront Regeneration Trust member Vicki Barron, Niagara Parks Commission chair Janice Thomson, Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation and NOTL Lord Mayor Pat Darte celebrate the unveiling of the Greenbelt Route trailhead sign for cyclists in Queenston Monday. Penny Coles/Niagara Advance
Queenston has become one of the signed sites along the 475 kilometres of the new Greenbelt Route for cyclists.
Monday morning, a trailhead sign was unveiled in the parkette at York Rd. and the Niagara River Parkway, a site used as a staging area for cyclists.
The sign shows a map of the route, with suggested stops along existing trails, including wineries, museums, art galleries and breweries throughout Niagara. Since spring, 27 municipalities from Niagara to Northumberland have been posting signs to their sections of the route, and once complete, 1,050 signs will guide cyclists through almost two million acres of Ontario’s protected Greenbelt area.
David Hunt, 68, a board member of the Niagara Freewheelers Bicycle Touring Club, was up early Monday morning to cycle from his Fonthill home to Queenston for the unveiling of the trailhead sign.
Cycling is getting a little more attention every year, he said, and as more people take up the sport, municipalities and government agencies are putting in infrastructure that makes cycling “safer and more amenable.”
Increasing awareness of the benefits of cycling and promoting safe routes are important, he said.
“The more people take up cycling, the safer it will become for all of us, and the more economic spin-offs will increase. Cycling is great for so many reasons - it’s fun, it’s healthy, and as we cycle, we stop for lunch in local restaurants and spend a few dollars. And it’s good for socializing - it’s a great opportunity to meet new people.”
Cycling could be considered the new golf, said Burkhard Mausberg, CEO of the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation, which has spearheaded the new route. It’s attracting a growing number of people, and is providing an economic boost to the province’s tourism sector by bringing cyclists of all ages and abilities to Queenston and other communities across Ontario’s Greenbelt.
Like the Waterfront Trail, the Greenbelt Route will encourage residents and visitors to experience the natural beauty of Niagara-on-the-Lake, said Lord Mayor Pat Darte, adding the town is looking at creating policies to promote healthy and safe initiatives, including cycling trails.
Wayne Gates, MPP for the riding of Niagara Falls and NOTL, called the Greenbelt Route “a perfect example of how we can create economic development and support our local businesses while also preserving our environment for future generations.”
In 2010, he said, two million visitors spent $391 million cycling rough Ontario.
“That’s a number that continues to grow. That’s money that goes right back into the pocket of people who live here,” said Gates.
“Across the province, towns and cities are starting to accommodate this positive hobby and encourage even more people to cycle. It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s healthy. With the Queenston trailhead we can be part of that cycling boom.”
The sign is on Niagara Parks Commission property, which has its own 53-kilometre recreation trail and has partnered with the Greater Niagara Circle Route, the Trans Canada Trail network, the Waterfront Trail and now, the Greenbelt Route, said parks commission chair Janice Thomson.
“It is my pleasure to be here as we celebrate the success and importance of Ontario’s Greenbelt, through the unveiling of this trailhead sign, signifying Niagara and Niagara Park’s inclusion in the new Greenbelt Route.”