Kakabeka Falls, Ont. — If Len Day has his way, year-round hiking trails will be connected from Atikokan to the Nipigon area to the Ontario-Minnesota border by 2026.

The president of the Northwestern Ontario Recreational Trails Association (NWORTA) and his members unveiled a five-year, five-phase plan in 2021 with the first phase — approximately 60 kilometres of trail from Kakabeka Falls to Shabaqua — ready to come to fruition by the fall of next year.

“We’ve got an application into the Ministry of Natural Resources for what we’re calling our Shabaqua Trail, a connection between Kakabeka Falls and Shabaqua,” said Day, who worked for Resolute Forest Products for 40 years before retiring four years ago. 

“Much of that (trail) is on Crown land, so we’re dealing with (the MNR) right now. We’re anticipating approval for some section of that trail this coming spring.

“As soon as we get the go-ahead, we’re going to start.”

Day indicated that Conmee Township, O’Connor Township and the Municipality of Oliver Paipoonge have started giving approval for using some of the township roads for the trail system, including the use of Fleming Road — a critical access thoroughfare which borders the townships of Conmee and O’Connor.

The association’s plan would see the proposed trails hook up to the Trans Canada Trail featuring hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and dog sledding, a regional 500 kilometres of trails where recreational enthusiasts could also camp overnight with access to water stations.

The biggest problem the group has run into is liability coverage, which Day says the association is addressing through Hike Ontario, a group they joined in the fall of 2021.

“After our incorporation, we became a member of Hike Ontario and through Hike Ontario we have access to liability coverage which satisfies the requirements by any type of land manager, be it public or like a Crown entity like the Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Natural Resources or a township or a city,” Day said. “It covers officers and directors of the (trail) board, covers volunteers who help with the trail and it covers any private or public lands that we cross. It protects the land owners and the land managers.”

Day said NWORTA has also applied to be part of the Trans Canada Trail network, which the national recreational trail body will be discussing later this month and Day expects to hear from them this month or early in the new year.

Once part of the network, Day’s association can receive funding from the organization, which has been allotted $11 million a year for five years from Parks Canada.

“What we’re looking at right now is to get the trail established,” Day said. 

“We’re focusing on old logging roads, old trails, municipal roadways and highway corridors.

“The plan in the future is when funding becomes available, we’ll work on what I call ‘prettying up’ the trail where we’re going to go out and try to get off of active roads.

“Once we get approved or if we get approved under the Trans Canada Trail banner we’ll have access to the funding that they managed to secure through federal government funding.”

With the first phase of NWORTA’s design all but layed out, work will also begin in the near future on the subsequent trail phases of Kakabeka Falls to Thunder Bay, Kakabeka Falls to the Minnesota border, Thunder Bay to Nipigon and Shabaqua to Atikokan.

By John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Dec 06, 2022

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario

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