If you're thinking about getting outdoors, there's good news and bad news.
We’ll start with the bad news. As outdoor and sport enthusiasts know all too well, many outdoor recreation facilities are closed due to the current provincewide stay-at-home orders.
Hopefully this is a one-time occurrence that will not be repeated in the near future. It’s a unique situation and one that is worthy of a photo exposition.
To comply with the province’s stay-at-home order, local municipalities were required to close a number of outdoor facilities, including sports fields, tennis, pickleball and basketball courts, skateboard parks and golf courses.
The images of upside-down picnic tables, roped off park equipment and empty sports fields are a bit forlorn. These outdoor spaces are typically full of activity at this time of year.
But there is some good news.
Although many outdoor park amenities remain closed, walking, running and cycling through parks and along trails is allowed and encouraged. And there are lots to choose from.
We are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful Simcoe County forests, provincial parks and Couchiching Conservancy reserves, all with unique trail systems.
There are also the popular and well-used trails along Orillia’s waterfront. In a recent social media post, the City of Orillia suggested that “Riding ‘round the trails is fun for the whole family!” and encouraged people to experience the beauty of the Lightfoot Trail.
For those who are looking for a challenge, there are two unique events coming up this month, designed to help you get out and enjoy our trails and outdoor spaces.
Hardwood Ski and Bike is offering a trail running challenge, and the Couchiching Conservancy is presenting its annual Carden Challenge on May 28-29.
Hardwood is hosting the first event of its 2021 trail running series from May 15 to 31. Participants complete three course challenges along Hardwood’s trail system over 16 days and submit their times electronically. All runners are eligible for prizes.
“Although it’s a self-timed event, there is a competitive component as each run takes place on pre-set courses, rather than the do-it-anywhere type of event,” explained Arienne Strong, Hardwood Ski and Bike program manager.
For more information and to register for the Hardwood Trail Challenge, visit hardwoodskiandbike.ca.
Hardwood Ski and Bike is also open for mountain biking and has over 100 kilometres of trails designed for all levels, from beginner to expert.
Horseshoe Resort also offers dedicated and maintained trails for mountain biking, and hopes to open its cross-country and downhill trails later this month.
If you’re looking for a different kind of outdoor challenge, you might be interested in the upcoming annual Carden Challenge. The event challenges participants to go out to find as many birds and other species as they can within a 24-hour period, all in an effort to raise funds to protect the Carden Alvar.
This year’s challenge takes place on May 28 and 29 and offers both an “at-home” edition and on-site at the Alvar, for local participants.
“Because of the current stay-at-home restrictions, we are inviting people to take part in the challenge from their own home areas,” said Tanya Clark, development coordinator with the Couchiching Conservancy.
“It’s a great way to learn about different species,” she added. “You don’t have to be an experienced birder.”
To find out more, register as a participant or team, or donate, visit the Conservancy website.
So there you go – a couple of additional ways to enjoy the outdoors this month. And, of course, there are also the beautiful lakes and waterways surrounding us. While marinas and sailing/boating clubs are closed, there are some simple and fun ways to get on the water; more on that next week.