The Friends of the Rail Trail (FoRT) is inviting County residents to attend an evening of socializing and education through the third iteration of its ‘Spokes and Species’ series.

Taking place in the clubroom at the Haliburton Legion April 26, the event will feature two guest speakers broaching subjects around cycling and the environment. Organizer Pamela Marsales said it will be a fun-filled evening jam-packed with information.

“We imagine there are lots of people out in the hinterlands in Haliburton County, cottagers and new residents who are interested in cycling, nature, rail trails or all of the above. This is a great opportunity for them to come out, meet new people and have a social evening,” she said.

Cara Steele, an ecologist at Abbey Gardens, will speak about the ecological restoration that has been ongoing at the site, touching on livable green spaces and habitat biodiversity.

The main presenter is Brendan Matheson, a coordinator with Tourism Simcoe County (TSC). Marsales said he’ll be talking about a new cycling tourism strategy he’s working on for TSC, with the key feature being a 160-kilometre rail trail loop connecting Barrie, Midland and Orillia with Georgian Bay, Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching.

“That would be of interest to many people here… the concept of cycling tourism is something that’s yet to be fully imagined and realized in Haliburton County,” Marsales said. “We’re excited to think about the possibilities. Brendan has helped create a loop trail that has become a real destination and economic driver for Simcoe County.”

Marsales said while the County has its own 35-kilometre rail trail, it’s often overlooked in favour of what she called better systems elsewhere.

She’s eager to see work continue on a proposed Toronto Algonquin Greenway (TAG) initiative that would connect the Highlands to Algonquin Park and the GTA. The 200-kilometre route would incorporate five separate existing trail systems and promote hiking, cycling and paddling.

“All the groundwork has been laid for this TAG concept to be developed as a sustainable, multi-community tourism product, but there’s still work to be done,” Marsales said, noting the project was put on hold in 2020 due to the pandemic. “I think that would really help to direct a lot of people to Haliburton County.”

The ‘Spokes and Species’ event will start at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation, with proceeds supporting FoRT. Attendees are asked to enter the Legion through the side door.