New Binational tourism partnership with a focus on the Great Lakes announced


A new Memorandum of Understanding has been signed to develop a binational Great Lakes tourism destination opportunity by 2024.

Dignitaries from Canada and the United States were in Windsor on Friday, including representatives from Trans Canada Trail, the Waterfront Regeneration Trust in Ontario, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, to announce the new partnership which officials say is the first of its kind.

Coinciding with the opening of the Gordie Howe International Bridge, officials say this destination opportunity will pave the way for cross-border trail tourism experiences promoting the use and enjoyment of the greenways, waterways and communities of Windsor and Detroit.

Trans Canada Trail President & CEO Eleanor McMahon says they refer to the trail as a connective ribbon, and she's excited that now the ribbon is weaving its way across the Detroit River, connecting the US to Canada.

"Soon the fruits of this relationship will be evidenced by a shared set of common values focused on leveraging the natural and cultural assets that we share," she continued. "Protecting nature, enhancing conservation, bringing an important marketing focus to the beauty of our trail networks, and inviting citizens on both sides of the border to experience the beauty of this gateway to Canada."

She says the MOU embodies their shared vision and sense of purpose to amplify the existing trail networks, from the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, a part of the Trans Canada Trail to the Iron Belle Trail in Michigan and The Great Lakes Way.

"And to leverage the active transportation infrastructure features of the new Gordie Howe International Bridge. We will partner on both destination development and promotion, all with a view towards strengthening the active living, transportation, recreation and tourism experiences for residents domestic and international guests on both sides of the border," she said.

McMahon says the vision behind the Great Lakes destination experience is as follows:

- Link the Great Lakes Waterfront Trail, part of the Trans Canada Trail network, to Michigan's Iron Belle Trail and The Great Lakes Way via the new Gordie Howe International Bridge. An important tourism attraction, active transportation route and conservation opportunity, the bridge will convey residents and guests to the new Ojibway National Urban Park in Windsor and beyond.

- Connect visitors to the natural heritage assets on both sides of the border, such as the forthcoming Ojibway National Urban Park, which includes the Ojibway Shores and Nature Centre, encompassing land adjacent to the Detroit River shoreline. 

- Connect cycling tourists from the United States to Ontario's wine country in Essex County, Pelee Island, Lake Erie communities and the Niagara Region via the Waterfront Regeneration Trust's Lake Erie cycling route, an easy day trip that would attract many.


She says they know that trails are a significant tourism asset.

"Building this binational Great Lakes recreation experience aligns closely with our tourism strategy work and our goal to work with the travel and tourism sector to catalyze the tremendous potential of trails. Our enthusiasm for the potential for this partnership is clearly in evidence today, but it is also borne out in economic data," McMahon stated.

The binational partnership builds on greenway systems started first in Windsor in the 1960s and '70s, and in southeast Michigan in the '90s, in response to increasing public demand for access to the waterfront and active modes of transportation.

The binational Great Lakes tourism experience will serve as a model for the Exceptional Trail Experience program, which Trans Canada Trail anticipates launching in 2023.


- with files from AM800's Rob Hindi