The economic agency anticipates the growth of cycle tourism for the Almaguin highlands

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Almaguin Community Economic Development is one of the main organizations helping to organize a major cycling event in Magnetawan next August.

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Dave Gray, Economic Director of ACED, says that in recent years, a lot of effort has been put into creating cycle tourism in the Almaguin Highlands.

Gray says this has happened through partnerships with Discovery Routes, the cyclists themselves who participate in the rides, and local city councils who listen to opportunities and run with ideas.

He says the 2022 Ghost Gravel race is resulting in “huge awareness of the benefits of releasing some of these cycling products.”

“It really helps to put us in the spotlight as a promising tourist destination for cycling adventure sports, said Gray.

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 parts of Canada.

Along the way, he racked up more than 8,000 kilometers on his bike.

It was only in the last two years that Foulk discovered the Almaguin, Magnetawan and Old Nipissing Road highlands region.

He accidentally stumbled across the area when his brother-in-law bought land in Loring and as a cyclist Foulk saw the potential to ride the gravel trails in the area with his bike.

Foulk took the next step and reached out to Gray to set up what would become the Ghost Gravel ride.

By becoming more involved with Ghost Gravel, Gray admits he’s learning more about areas he knew little about.

“I have lived in this area my whole life and the road Matt chose, I can honestly say there are roads that I never intended to travel,” said Gray.

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A cyclist himself who explores a number of trails, Gray says it has been amazing for him personally to discover trails he has never ventured on.

Gray especially likes that Foulk’s chosen route includes the Old Nipissing Road, which has a lot of history behind it.

He says that many Almaguins are familiar with the many points of interest in the area, but little effort has been made to share this information on a wider spectrum.

“But now we’re starting to reveal the secret,” Gray said.

“There are great access points to the wilderness of northern Ontario and many of them pass through the Almaguin Highlands.

Gray says a great rediscovery and reassessment of northern Ontario is underway and people like Foulk are proof of that.

He says this bodes well for future growth in tourism, adding, “I’m happy to see an event like Ghost Gravel shining a light on gravel driving.

“It’s a growing offshoot of the equestrian community, and we have a lot of gravel,” Gray said.

Rocco Frangione is a reporter for the Local Journalism Initiative who works at the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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