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Rotary Club aims to expedite development of Thunder Bay's waterfront trail

A new registered charity will support trail development.

THUNDER BAY — A push is underway to speed up work on Thunder Bay's waterfront recreational trail.

The city is currently developing three separate sections, but expects it will take more than a decade and over $20 million to complete a trail from the Current River to Mission Island.

The Port Arthur Rotary Club wants to help move the project along, both with planning and with money.

It's formed a committee called the Waterfront Trail Rotary Community Action Team (WTRCAT).

The group is comprised of club members as well as non-Rotarians – including cycling, running and skiing organizations – to present a unified community voice to advise and support city staff and city council.

Rotary is also in the process of forming a registered charity.

Spokesperson Warren Philp says private donors, foundations and corporations would be able to contribute for various causes.

"But obviously, our team is most interested in donations that go to the waterfront trail," Philp said. "Ultimately we'll be making donations to the city to help with the private funding piece of the trail project."

The group hopes to make a deputation soon to the city's waterfront development committee.

It also plans to give a presentation to city council early in the new year during budget deliberations.

Earlier this year a city staff report to council noted that achieving a trail along the full 14 kilometres of harbourfront will also require successful negotiations with some private landowners.

Administration currently contemplates a $6 million investment over the next decade to complete major sections of the route.

That's an average of $600,000 a year, twice what the city currently budgets for trails, but officials hope for help from private and government funding sources.

Philp said WTRCAT hopes to "nudge" the city to expedite the project.

"There are no construction dollars in place in the capital plan...We think right now the time is right to get going on that, especially what we're still going through with the pandemic. The importance of public outdoor spaces is underlined."

He said the waterfront trail will also be a catalyst for tourism growth and economic development.

Philp believes putting dollars for the waterfront trail into next year's capital plan makes sense in particular because funding is available now from existing federal and provincial programs.

"At the provincial level, there's a $320 million fund that has already funded 36 trail projects, none of which are in Thunder Bay district," he said.

More information and maps pertaining to the waterfront trail project can be found here.

The three local Rotary clubs have a history of supporting trail development.

Collectively, in the early 1990s they raised $200,000 that was matched by the city and the province, and used to expand trails.

Philp said club members invested sweat equity as well.

"Many of the trails that you see in the Intercity area that connect Lakehead University and Confederation College, and go along the floodway, are the result of the work of Rotarians."

Gary Rinne

About the Author: Gary Rinne

Born and raised in Thunder Bay, Gary started part-time at Tbnewswatch in 2016 after retiring from the CBC
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