Officials and dignitaries from across the province gathered with Toronto-Algonquin Greenway (TAG) committee members to push the initiative forward at a first-ever TAG Summit Nov. 4.

More than 20 people attended the two-day event at Sir Sam’s Ski and Ride to discuss the project, which would co-ordinate existing trail systems to form a cycling route between Toronto and Algonquin Park. The summit featured speeches and group discussions about how to best accomplish that.

TAG co-ordinator Pamela Marsales called the event a success.

“It was perfect,” Marsales said. “Attendees brought in a wide range of expertise. They were there because they were champions of the Toronto-Algonquin Greenway concept.”

Group discussion generated ideas for how to best guide the project, including trail assessments, data collection and a toolbox of existing resources to promote the effort.

One discussion delved into economic development and how to get municipal buy-in. Haliburton County Development Corporation consultant Jim Blake said municipalities have a lot of projects on the go.

“It’s really understanding what pressure municipal staff are actually under,” Blake said. “And how you’re going to support them in doing their job.”

A steering committee was struck at the summit, which will transform the TAG initiative from a Haliburton-based committee to a province-wide non-profit organization.

“That was one of the main goals of this summit, so we achieved that,” Marsales said. “We feel now that TAG is moving out of the parent’s basement.”

Lianne Megarry of Dark Horse Studio in Sunderland joined the committee and said she is confident in TAG’s future.

“It has to start somewhere,” Megarry said. “We all bought in. We’ve got to sell it to everybody else.”

Marsales said they have partners in place along the route who are following along as TAG progresses. She plans to have further meetings and get visitor-ready itineraries in place for tourism partners to promote during the 2020 summer season.

“It’s really a thrill,” Marsales said. “There’s the great feeling of accomplishment and anticipation.”

Transportation planner and former director for the East Coast Greenway Alliance Eric Weis was a special guest at the summit. He said greenways like TAG help bring neighbouring communities together.

“These trails as individual units make our communities better and when they are linked together in projects like TAG, they make our regions better,” Weis said. “There’s so much enthusiasm and energy in this room today and last night. I know great things are going to start happening.”

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