One of the key agencies helping to pull off a major cycling event in Magnetawan next August is Almaguin Community Economic Development.
Dave Gray, ACED's economic director, says over the last several years, a lot of effort has been put into creating cycle tourism in the Almaguin Highlands.
Gray says that's happened as a result of partnerships with Discovery Routes, the cyclists themselves who take part in the rides and local town councils that listen to the opportunities and run with the ideas.
He says 2022's Ghost Gravel ride translates into a “huge realization of the benefits of putting some of those cycling products out.”
“This really helps to highlight us as an up-and-coming tourist destination for cycling adventure sports,” Gray said.
Ghost Gravel is the brainchild of Matt Foulk of Toronto, an avid cyclist who has ridden in many countries including the United States, New Zealand, Spain and various areas of Canada.
Along the way, he has racked up more than 8,000 kilometres on his bike.
It's only in the last couple of years that Foulk became aware of the Almaguin Highlands region, Magnetawan and Old Nipissing Road.
He chanced on the area when his brother-in-law bought land in Loring and as a cyclist, Foulk saw the potential of hitting the gravel trails in the area with his bike.
Foulk took the next step and reached out to Gray about organizing what was to become the Ghost Gravel ride.
In becoming more involved with Ghost Gravel, Gray admits he's learning about areas he knew little about.
“I've lived in this region my whole life and the route Matt chose, I can honestly say there are roads I've never had a purpose to go down,” Gray said.
A cyclist himself who explores a number of trails, Gray says it's been amazing for him personally to discover some trails he's never ventured on.
Gray particularly likes that the route Foulk has chosen includes Old Nipissing Road, which has a lot of history behind it.
He says many Almaguin residents know about the many points of interest in the region but little effort has been made to share that information on a wider spectrum.
“But now we're starting to let the secret out,” Gray said.
“There are great access points to the Northern Ontario wilderness and many of them are through the Almaguin Highlands.”
Gray says a great rediscovery and re-evaluation of Northern Ontario is taking place and people like Foulk are the proof.
He says that bodes well for future tourism growth, adding, “I'm happy to see an event like Ghost Gravel is putting a spotlight on gravel riding.”
“It's a growing offshoot of the riding community, and we have lots of gravel,” Gray said.
Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget