Waterfront Regeneration Trust Community Partner Update
August 2020

We hope you and your families are coping and staying well. We appreciate how deeply COVID disrupted lives and work plans, and of course, many of you are also dealing with devastating damage to the waterfront due to yet another year of high water levels. The following is an update of our activities and progress on our work program.

Great Lakes Waterfront Trail Partners Meeting—Postponed to 2021

Like so many events this year, and in light of provincial restrictions on gatherings, our plan to host a trail-wide meeting this fall to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Trail and its incredible partnership will be postponed to September 2021. Please mark your calendars.  One of the most appreciated things about partner meetings has been the opportunity to share with, learn from and inspire each other, both formally at table discussions, and casually as we enjoy the day. For this reason we have taken the decision to wait until next September to host our plenary partners meeting, and hope that you will join us.

Regional Zoom Meetings—Fall and Winter of 2020

We will be in touch to arrange regional meetings via Zoom to share project updates, waterfront priorities and hear your ideas for next year’s partner meeting.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guides Selects Great Lakes Waterfront Trail for new bucket-list book

Due to be released next April, DK Eyewitness is publishing a new book titled Ride: Cycle the World, as a bucket-list bible for cycling fans, it features 100 of the world’s most awe-inspiring bike rides. We have been working with the publishers to develop the entry and supporting mapping materials. We always knew that the Trail was world-class–great to see it included in such a prestigious international publication.

Public Outreach During the Pandemic: Is the Trail open?

Cancelled holidays, public health directives, capacity restrictions on facilities, and a reluctance to use public transit have all be been factors leading to an unprecedented surge in cycling and trail use. Communities and agencies have seen an incredible increase in trail and waterfront park visitation. Whitby, for example, reports that trail use has doubled over last year. Cobourg had to close its spectacular beach to prevent overcrowding, the St. Lawrence Parks Commission reduced its operating hours and limited capacity.
For the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, it has been one of the busiest years ever for our small team as we strived to provide the public with quality and timely trail information about closures and restrictions and help planning much needed outdoor excursions.
To this end we:
  • Created a page with COVID related updates and community links to help inform the public on what and when facilities were opened.
  • Responded to telephone inquiries from the public throughout the weekend and during evenings.
  • Conducted survey to measure impact of Covid on cycling (See below).
  • Launched 10 new 2-3 day self-guided itineraries on the Trail. (See below).
  • Served on the COVID advisory committee for the Minister of Heritage, Sport Tourism and Culture Industries contributing information about the impact of the pandemic on trails.
  • Consulted with Destination Ontario to develop a list of market-ready trail assets to promote this summer.

Our website traffic from beginning of May to end of August was 92,000 unique visits.

Fall Cycle Tourism and Cycling Activity Report

Cycle Tourism and Cycling Activity Survey–Updated November 2020

In November 2020, with funding from the Greenbelt Foundation, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust and Ontario by Bike surveyed 900 cyclists to learn about cycling behaviour in 2020 and plans for 2021.
Key findings:
  • 76% of respondents did the same amount (26%) of cycling or more (50%) this year than in 2019.
  • Recreational cycling has been most popular this year and during Covid-19, nearly 100% of respondents have been cycling for recreational reasons.
  • Compared to survey results in May, both recreational cycling and commuting by bike have increased.
  • Most cyclists stayed close home (72%) but also cycled regionally (60%), cross regionally (31%) and inter-provincially (10.5%) in 2o2o; only 4% did not travel. 60% of cyclists said they went on day-trips only. 28% participated in an organized event or tour.
  • Compared to 2020, respondents plan to cycle significantly more in all categories (locally, regional, cross-regional, interprovincial and internationally) should travel restrictions allow in 2021.
    • 86% are considering participating in expanded cycling activities in 2021, beyond day trips only, should travel restrictions allow.
    • 37% of cyclists are ready now or are optimistic that they will be able to cycle with larger groups, of 50 or more.
  • Websites and digital maps are the most used resources by cyclists to get ideas and plan cycling outings and routes, followed by word of mouth and printed cycling maps and promotional materials.
  • Cyclists are very likely to stop for food and beverages during their cycling trips, and a substantial number will stop to shop or visit attractions.
    • 91% are likely or very likely to stop for food and beverages (restaurants, cafes, fruit stands, wineries etc).
    • 60% are likely or very likely will stop to shop.
    • 43% are likely or very likely will stop at attractions such as museums and galleries.
  • 77% of cyclists are aware of or have used the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail.
  • 79% of cyclists are likely or very likely to recommend the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail to friends and family.
  • 59% of cyclists are aware of or have used the Greenbelt Route.
  • 69% of cyclists are likely to recommend the Greenbelt Route to friends and family.
  • Click here to read the report

86% cyclist planning expanded cycling activities beyond day trips

Spring 2020 Cycle Tourism and Cycling Activity Survey

In partnership with Ontario by Bike and Share the Road Coalition, we surveyed close to 900 cyclists to learn Covid’s impact on cycling and cycle tourism in May. While provincial polls indicated reluctance and fear by the public about resuming regular activities, the cycling survey indicated that cyclists were cycling the same as or more than last year; that they are already making plans for future trips, that they were prepared to practice physical distancing, carry hand sanitizer and wanted to be sure that they were not intruding on communities. See the findings for the May Survey.
In the coming months and into next year, cycle tourism will play an important role in Ontario’s tourism recovery. The Trail and waterfront parks, conservation areas will be for many, a major attraction. Thanks to investments by community partners, it will be a wonderful experience. We hear every week just how much people appreciate your work and value the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and all that it connects.

2020 Summer Adventure — Celebrate 25 Years of the Waterfront Trail With 10 Great Weeks of Cycling

As parts of the province moved into Stage 2 and 3, we launched A Summer Adventure 2020, featuring a favourite trip idea every week. Aimed at recreational cyclists, the 2-3 day suggestions focus on rides of 30 to 60 km, off-bike activities and hiking suggestions in places people may not have been as familiar with. Professional photographer Martin Lortz created a beautiful photo essays for each week. Promoted through our social media channels, it has reached over 212,000 people.

Protecting, Connecting, Celebrating–The Work Program

While the annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure had to be postponed, there has been exciting progress on a number of initiatives including:

  • Expansion from Sudbury to Simcoe with completion of maps, signage audits in Simcoe and route discussions with Shawanga First Nation. We thank Simcoe County, RTO 7 and Ministry of Heritage Sport Tourism and Culture Industries for their support.
  • Development of the Great Lakes to Greenbelt Watershed Cycling network with 3 new connections partnership with the Greenbelt Foundation (see below).
  • Wayfinding excellence on the Greenbelt in partnership with the Greenbelt Foundation.
  • Wayfinding excellence in the GTA in partnership with Trans Canada Trail.
  • Feasibility Study and Assessment for Improvements to the Lake Huron North Channel section of the Trail in partnership with Destination Northern Ontario and Trans Canada Trail.
  • Sponsoring a waterfront category in the Sarnia-Lambton Ontario Tourism Innovation Spark Program, awarded to the Historical Society Walk in Port Lambton.
  • Pilot project evaluating the effectiveness of wayfinding decals in Whitby with support from the Town of Whitby, and the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority and Stinson Owl-lite. If successful, decals on the trail surface have the potential to address a number of navigational challenges, particularly where there are forks in the path.
  • Creation of the Rouge Marsh Boardwalk from the mouth of the Rouge River to the Glen Rouge Campground, now part of the Rouge National Urban Park in partnership with Parks Canada.
  • Participating in a number of stakeholder consultations and committees relating to transformative projects on the waterfront.

In pursuit of wayfinding excellence, David Meyer and students have audited hundreds of kilometres of the Trail.

Lake Ontario Watershed Network

Building on the successes of the Greenbelt Route, Great Lakes Waterfront Trail and Greenbelt Route to Great Lakes Waterfront Trail Connector Routes program, the Watershed Network represents roughly 1200 km of fully-connected, signed cycling routes in the GTHA, Niagara Region and Northumberland County. With the interest in domestic cycle tourism to rising in the wake of COVID-19 the network is an ideal way to promote and inspire local and inter-regional cycling and allow our local businesses to take advantage of the growing cycle tourism market.
The WRT/GBF have developed a series of itineraries based on these loops that are under promotional development. Check them out here in Ride with GPS.


Trail Closure or Construction

Please send us an email and we will post the closure on our website, and if necessary annotate the mapping.



After much consultation with participants, ambassadors, sponsors, volunteers and communities, the Board of Directors for the Waterfront Regeneration Trust postponed the 13th Annual Great Waterfront Trail Adventure (GWTA) to August 7-12, 2021 as recommended by staff. The event sold-out in just 17 days in January and had a waiting list of 50.  Only 40 registrants requested a refund, the majority preferring to keep their registration for 2021.

Today the waiting list for the GWTA 2021 sits at 160—a testament to the excellent reputation that the ride and the Trail have earned over the years, and to the surging interest in cycling.

In the fall, we will begin consultations with community hosts to discuss hygiene and physical distancing protocols. We are very grateful to the CAA, Destination Northern Ontario, the Greenbelt Foundation and community hosts and volunteers for their enthusiasm, support as we tackled this difficult decision.

Click here for the GWTA 2019 Participant Survey Results


Established in 2019, the Pauline Browes Future Leaders Fellowship develops our country’s next generation of environmental leaders who will build on her lifelong conservation legacy. Young leaders receive an opportunity to learn and participate in the protection and restoration of Rouge National Urban Park as part of Parks Canada’s Resource Conservation Team over the course of a summer.

This year’s recipient of the fellowship is Samantha Clapperton of Stouffville Ontario, who began working for Parks Canada as a Resource Conservation student in May of this year. Clapperton holds an Ecosystem Management Technology Advanced Diploma from Sir Sandford Fleming College and will be enrolled at Trent University for Environmental and Resource Science this fall.

Watch Samantha’s  short video about working in Rouge National Urban Park.

From left to right: Keith Laushway, Chair of the WRT Board, Omar McDadi, Superintendent for the Rouge National Urban Park, Pauline Browes, WRT Board Member, Mariah Ramlogan, 2019 Pauline Browes Fellowship Recipient and in the foreground Samantha Clapperton, 2020 Pauline Browes Fellowship recipient.

Thank you!

Waterfront Regeneration Trust Team

Marlaine, David and Jo.