OVCATA events and actitivies give huge boost to cycle tourism and Active Transportation
Some of the 180 riders at the Tour de Bonnechere, 2022, get ready to begin the Bonnechere Beauty route.
OVCATA had a busy summer, and as a result, Ottawa Valley cycle tourism is growing rapidly and more people are cycling than ever.
In addition to organizing or helping at local events thoughout the Valley, OVCATA made a big impact with some big activities – the Trail Town Relay, the Tour de Bonnechere, the Tour de Whitewater, in July, and its own unique Bike Bank of Renfrew County.
The Relay, which took place on Saturday, August 20, brought together all the towns along the Algonquin Trail to promote each of them as a cycle destination. The Tour de Bonnechere, on August 28, raised more than $10,000 for mental health, with OVCVATA playing a major role organizing and publicizing, as it did with the Tour de Whitewater in July.
And volunteers from across Renfrew County collected, refurbished and distributed 44 bikes to Valley residents who needed them via the Bike Bank, in its second year of operation. Bob Peltzer and Mike Shulist were primary mechanics and did the bulk of pickups and coordination. Debbie MacDonald coordinated donations and requests. Drew Mellon and Howard Metcalfe did deliveries. Debbie Fiebig, Pat Krose and Ron Moss assisted in accepting donated bikes. Adam Yantha provided spare parts and all kinds of help.
The Trail Town Relay was a big success despite extreme heat - the hottest day experienced this year! "More than twenty cyclists supported our relay team over the 100 km, with six to eight cyclists visiting all participating municipalities, each of which was presented with a golden spike as a symbol of OVCATA's trail town message," said OVCATA co-chair Ron Moss, who almost rode the whole route before heat forced him to complete the relay by motor vehicle and presenting golden spikes in Braeside and Arnprior as well as hoisting a beer with the team.
"Trail towns can generate a lot of business if they take can cater to tourists using the Algonquin Trail. As trail use expands, so will business, if they spread out the welcome mat."
Local politicians met the riders all along the way, starting with Mayor Bob Sweet in Petawawa. Renfrew County Warden Debbie Robinson, Pembroke Deputy Mayor Ron Gervais met the relay. In Cobden, where the cyclists stopped for lunch at the near half point, they were greeted by local businesses, CAO Ivan Burton, Mayor Moore. Reeve Peter Emon and Councillor Mike Coulas met the relay team in the Town of Renfrew. Mayors Tom Peckett (McNab-Braeside), Walter Stack (Arnprior) and Councillor Dan Lynch (Arnprior) met the relay team in Braeside and escorted them with flags waving to the 5:00 finish in Arnprior, where the team enjoyed a well-deserved beer together in downtown Arnprior after the finish.
The Renfrew County ATV Club faithfully followed the team and provided support, helping fix a flat tire and providing first aid. With their support they got us underway again to complete the relay.
Tour de Bonnechere biggest ever
"The Tour de Bonnechere (TdB) was a smashing success thanks to the hard work of all the volunteers and a day of decent weather," reports OVCATA director Bob Peltzer. "Over 180 riders signed up for the event with quite a few registering Sunday morning. The 100 km route was the largest contingent and every route ran without any major problems. Someone removed a sign on the 65 km route causing a few riders to wind up in Dacre and doing an 80 km ride but they actually seemed to like the extra distance. Only one small injury which was a combination of motor vehicle and rider errors but it was not serious. I am already working on an idea to prevent such occurrences next year.
"OVCATA has been a major contributor to the continued success of this event," he says. "In fact, I think the event would have petered out had we not become involved. It was a lot of work to make it happen but OVCATA can be proud of being part of it and of establishing this area as a great place to cycle. I am noticing an increasing number of riders from outside of our area on the TbB and the OVCATA routes throughout the riding season. I think that along with the rail trails were are beginning to establish a bicycling tourism economy as part of the Ottawa Valley's tourism landscape."
"The TdB started at the Bonnechere Caves in 2010 after being renamed and relocated from being the Tour de Lapasse," reports its founder, Chris Hinsperger. "50 riders in 2010 became 90 riders in 2011 and we soon realized the event would grow to need a location to handle the popularity of this event. I connected the organizers with BV Twp. And then the Legion Field was used which as we know can handle a lot of cars and bikes and people with all the facilities. Right from the get-go, the Caves had a family ride."
Bob reports talking with Petawawa Mayor Bob Sweet at the beginning of the Trail Town Relay and one of the things that they discussed was how an economy can be based upon one big thing such as an auto plant or a military base or upon hundreds of little things. "Our conclusion is that even if you have the big thing we are overall more secure if we continue to develop those hundreds of little things. Big things can leave an unfillable hole when they disappear but those little things just flow into the void. Bicycle tourism, theater such as Stone Fence Theatre, camping, fishing, and all the rest that make up our recreation economy need to be promoted, and strengthened with infrastructure support to insure our economy through all financial climates."