A new trail hub could be the key to getting visitors to Riding Mountain National Park’s historic East Gate entrance.
Park staff are in the process of developing a plan to move the trail heads for Burls and Bittersweet, Gorge Creek and the new Reeve’s Ravine trail to the East Gate Registration Complex.
"At the end of the day, we want to have more people visiting our historic site," said visitor experience manager Richard Dupuis. "Part of that design will be creating a new trail hub at the site."
Riding Mountain’s East Gate is on Highway 19, west off Highway 5.
The East Gate is the last log-built entrance left in Canada. It was one of three built at Riding Mountain in the 1930s. The complex includes the gate, registration building and two staff cabins.
The site was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1992.
"The new design will likely include parking and picnic areas," Dupuis said. "Right now, it feels like you are intruding in someone’s yard when you stop at the East Gate. We want to get rid of that feeling."
Creating the trail hub and attracting more visitors comes less than a year after the new Reeve’s Ravine trail opened. The 11.5-kilometre trail is the first new trail since Kippans Mill was opened in 1999.
"The ridge-line portion of the trail is exceptional," Dupuis said. "It really makes you feel like you could be hiking in the foothills of the Rockies."
Reeve’s Ravine trail has been in progress since 2010. The trail took three summers to complete and cost $28,000.
The park and volunteers are continuing to work on the trail and fix some issues, but these will be ongoing modifications. Longer trail projects can take more time because they are done in large part by volunteers.
"Tons of people that come to us want to help with the trails," he said. "That is what they love most about the park."
Reeve’s Ravine trail is open to the public. The park estimates takes about an hour to bike or four hours to hike the full looping trail.
The park is hoping to be able to get work done on moving the trail head for Reeve’s Ravine to the East Gate entrance by the end of summer.
"Reeve’s Ravine and Gorge Creek are our two signature hikes," Dupuis said. "Having them start at the East Gate entrance will definitely bring more visitors to the complex because often they don’t come this far."
Riding Mountain has more than 400 kilometres of trails to explore. The park encourages visitors to check the trail conditions online before hiking.
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