Local tourism association looking to increase bike infrastructure around Antigonish

ANTIGONISH: Despite supporting the creation of infrastructure to become a bike destination, councillors in the Town of Antigonish say they need to know more information before shelling out nearly $30,000.

Paul Curry, who is the CEO of the Claymore Inn and Justamere Café and Bakery, made a presentation to senior staff during their regular monthly council meeting on Nov. 15, representing the Antigonish Tourism Association, a newly formed group of local tourism and hospitality businesses.

“Our goal is to help make Antigonish the leading bike tourist destination in Atlantic Canada. Large in part, because we already have this asset in Keppoch Mountain sitting in our backyard,” Curry said. “Among the people in the mountain biking (world) they see this as the premier mountain biking destination in all of Atlantic Canada; I didn’t know this until recently and a lot of people in this town don’t know that very well.”

Under the Tourism Relief Fund through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Antigonish Tourism Association asked for $27,000 from the town for their multi-faceted project.

Curry explained the first step of the project would be offering a consultation by Mountain Bike Atlantic.

“It’s a consultation that’s really designed for the town and businesses within the town that would be dealing with tourists in any way,” he said. “A biker could go into a restaurant on Main Street, they’d have a station outside to park their bike, they could do in and ask ‘Where do bikers go here?’ and people at the business, because they’ve had this training opportunity, would know what to tell them.”

He explained this would give support to bikers wherever they go in Antigonish.

Another major element of the project is bike parking facilities.

“This is something that’s really targeted toward accommodation places, like my hotel and the other hotels in town, and also Keppoch Mountain,” Curry said. “One of the problems we face now is these bikers that are coming to the Keppoch, they have bikes that are valued upwards of $10,000 and they’re not just willing to park them out front and lock them with a chain.”

In addition to being value pieces of equipment, he explained they demand a lot of repair and also require a lot of cleaning, once coming off the mountain.

“Part of this project is there would be eight of these storage facilities (constructed) around town,” Curry said. “Where these high-end bikes can be stored, locked-up, washed and repaired.”

All councillors agreed the project would be beneficial to the area, but there were some concerns on the timeline the money was needed, and where it may come from.

“I don’t want to be pushy,” Curry said. “We’re new to this, the whole asking for money thing; I’m coming to you with my hands open.”

When asked by council, Kate Gorman, the communications person for the town, advised the project would accompany their current tourism strategic plan.

“We’re so close to releasing the RFP for the Destination Antigonish Tourism Strategy,” Gorman said. “This looks at the bigger picture and how a project like this feeds into building that overall image for Antigonish.”

Mayor Laurie Boucher advised before council makes their decision, they would wait to see how much money they have remaining in their discretionary fund.

“We just need information, we just need to know what’s left in our discretionary fund, and whether we’re going to do it this year or next year,” Boucher said. “Once we have all that information, we’ll have a clearer understanding and consensus around the table.”