By Stephen Petrick
Hike Haliburton – hopefully really this time – is coming back.
The county-led tourism initiative which intends to get people out and about enjoying the region’s trails, and then supporting local businesses, is now scheduled for Sept. 21 to 25.
The event was last scheduled to run in February, but plans were scrapped as the Omicron variant led to rising COVID-19 infections in the province and new mass gathering restrictions were put in place.
The event was also once planned for the winter of 2021, but was scrapped because of COVID-19.
However, in 2021, there was a successful fall Hike Haliburton program, which had a smaller number of hikes and fewer people, compared to usual.
The county is hoping that COVID-19 will remain under control through the fall, so a somewhat larger event can take place this year.
At their April 13 virtual meeting, Haliburton County councillors supported staff’s recommendation to hold a “smaller number of hikes” and increase the number of people who can participate in each hike from 12 to 15 (up from 8 to 10) and “consider a value-added culinary component, which can be added to registration for those interested.”
That means a registration program will be set up that allows participants to participate in another fall county event, such as a county art tour or Bookapalooza.
The county has already set aside $3,000 to stage the event. The last time a full-scale Hike Haliburton event was held was in early 2020 – slightly before COVID-19 restrictions came into effect – when 22 hike leaders took about 300 participants on hikes, which ranged from 1.5 to 10 kilometres.
County staff feel the event is a good one to promote economic development and tourism, as a survey that year showed that 58 per cent of participants spent money at local restaurants on the weekend.
More details on the program will be announced at hikehaliburton.com as they come about.