For most people, the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Cavendish is summer vacations along the beach. But local tourism groups are hoping to make the resort area a popular destination not only during the sunny season, but also in the wintertime.
Three new trails looping around the P.E.I. National Park's Cavendish Campground will be available on weekends starting this Sunday until March 20 as part of a pilot project.
The trails will be regularly groomed. They're respectively three, six and 10 kilometres in length, offering enthusiasts and beginners alike views of the park's bays, rivers, dunes and wooded areas.
Several organizations partnered up with Parks Canada to make the pilot happen, including Tourism Cavendish Beach.
"For a long time, Cavendish has been known as a summer destination primarily," said Darcy Butler, the tourism group's executive director. "Through COVID, we've really pushed to try and expand the season, to try to push into spring and fall and now winter."
Butler said he hopes the trails become a destination for people who'd like to remain active during the cold winter months, or who just want to "get out of their heads" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Snowshoes, fat bikes available for rent
The province provided about $45,000 in funding for the project, which has gone mostly toward equipment, grooming and marketing.
Snowshoes and fat bikes will be available for rent weekends from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Winter Activity Hub, a heated building which also has washroom facilities.
Seasoned snowshoers and other outdoor enthusiasts will still have the option to explore trails at Green Gables and the Dunelands, which are not maintained during the winter.
Tara McNally MacPhee, a visitor experience manager with Parks Canada, said the first year of the project will be all about figuring out what demand there is for such winter offerings in P.E.I.
"We haven't really actively provided any kind of service in Cavendish for a long time," she said. "It looks completely different, and the essence of Cavendish changes during the wintertime.
"We're really excited for folks to get out and experience something new, and really have that kind of emotional connection to Cavendish during the cover of snow."
McNally MacPhee said they'll be monitoring trail usage closely. If there's enough interest, they will evaluate what steps are needed to make it financially sustainable to continue offering it in future years.
Looking to expand
Some organizations will be offering packages for people who want to spend a weekend or a night near Cavendish.
Tourism Cavendish Beach will update Islanders on special offers and trail conditions weekly.
Butler said he hopes the pilot eventually expands and that services are offered weekdays as well. He said that if it continues over the long term, the local community's economy would certainly benefit.
"Ideally we'd love to see this continue into next year and beyond, expand the product offering and seeing an increase in the number of businesses that are rallied around to support this," he said.
"There's so many misconceptions about Cavendish that after Labour Day everything is closed, but that is just not the case. And there's so much beauty here that I think people need to come and appreciate it [when they don't think] that it's too busy, or that it's too commercial."