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Recreational trail project gets important approvals

The province has issued work permits for completion of the initial stage from Kakabeka Falls to Shabaqua

THUNDER BAY — Organizers of an ambitious plan to build a network of non-motorized recreational trails linking Thunder Bay with the Nipigon, Pigeon River and Atikokan areas have achieved an important goal.   

The Northwestern Ontario Recreational Trails Association has just received work permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to build four "connector trails" required to complete the first stage of what eventually would be a network nearly 500 kilometres long.

This means volunteers can go into bush later this month to start cutting and removing brush and rocks, painting trail blazes, and raking out the trail tread to complete the entire initial 50-kilometre section between Kakabeka Falls and Shabaqua.

"This is huge, and will certainly get the ball rolling in terms of funding and other community support," said trails association president Len Day. "So now we're gearing up and getting ready to go get this thing up and running."

The route of the Kakabeka/Shabaqua trail is on Crown land, old logging roads and local township roads.

Day said work parties will have to make multiple outings to finish it, but he expects the trail will be operational sometime this fall.

"Once we get this opened up, it will add a lot of credence to us as a group and to our project, and we're hoping that will open up a few doors. The challenge we have is that we were just a concept. But now we have the approval, we can establish this trail, take it to the people and say 'OK, here it is. Enjoy.' "

The next stage in the group's multi-year plan will see a trail completed between Thunder Bay and Kakabeka Falls, followed by trails from Kakabeka to Pigeon River, Thunder Bay to Nipigon, and Shabaqua to Atikokan.

The trail association hopes they will become part of the Trans Canada Trail's land-based route under the auspices of Trans Canada Trail Ontario.

The non-profit group currently has a list of about 55 volunteers who are available at various times of the year to work in the field.

"Some can't come out all the time, and some can only come once a year, but any help we can get is definitely a bonus for us," Day said.

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