Pamela Marsales is the passion behind the Toronto to Algonquin Greenway concept. In 2003, a public information meeting on the future of the Haliburton county-owned rail trail raised more questions than it answered…
How are rail trails developed elsewhere? What is the value of public lands that could be accessible to all for quiet recreation? What is the market for cycling tourism in Haliburton County? What provincial policies are influencing decisions?
After a holiday in France led to a chance bicycle ride along the Canal du Midi, a new path became inevitable. Upon return, and purchase of a sturdy mountain bike and digital camera, Pamela began to research and ride every rail trail she could find throughout Ontario. After visiting 60 or so, and becoming one of the original members of the Haliburton Highlands Cycling Coalition, there was no turning back.
Pamela Marsales co-founded Friends of the Rail Trail (FoRT) in 2007, as part of the Haliburton County Community Cooperative. Over the next five years, FoRT became an important community voice in policy discussion around the Haliburton County Rail Trail (HCRT). Leading by example, Marsales demonstrated how the HCRT could be an attractive catalyst in creating appreciation for public greenspace. Through FoRT, she developed imaginative events and guided hike, bike and paddle outings, featuring aspects of local history and nature as intriguing hooks to draw wide participation. The Sunday Rambles became a much-loved rite of spring, welcoming the whole community and their dogs out on the HCRT every Sunday in April and May.
These positive experiments in animating community greenspace, sparked a desire to learn more and take part in a wider conversation. Marsales became a feisty local cycling advocate, an active member of the Toronto Cyclists Union – now Cycle Toronto, and an informed participant in Ontario’s cycling, trails and greenways community. The HCRT stood out in sharp contrast as an under-appreciated asset. What would it look like as part of a tourism route from Toronto to . . . say, Algonquin Park? What if the success of the Sunday Rambles could be repeated in communities all along the route?
The role of Greenway Coordinator will be central to bringing all the partners together to work strategically from Concept, through Project steps over the next three, five and ten years, to an emerging shared Vision.