WINGHAM, ONT. -- It may seem like a snowy day for a ride, but a 'fat bike' fundraiser is helping to pay for improvements to the Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail.

“There’s half-a-million people on the other end of this trail that would really like to use it, so they contribute. Replacing bridges and so on has been driven in large part by those contributions,” says Chris Lee, who sits on the Guelph to Goderich Rail Trail board of directors.

The 140 km former railway opened to hikers and bikers this summer, but there remain some obstacles in the way, such as the Road 25 Tunnel.

Filled in following the closure of the railway, rail trail volunteers plan to reopen it with the support of Huron County as early as this summer.

“Right now, anyone with mobility issues comes to this large bank and they have to deal with a road crossing that we are planning to eliminate,” says Lee, who lives near Walton.

To help fund the $350,000 tunnel restoration, a pair of local tourism businesse have teamed up for a “fat bike” fundraiser.

The Goderich Bike Shop has been renting out fat-tired bikes designed for winter riding through the Blyth Studio Suites for a donation to the Guelph to Goderich Rail (G2G) Trail restoration.

They’ve been almost sold out every weekend since January.

“We’re two tourism providers along the G2G trail that would love to see our communities connected,” says Blyth Studio Suites Owner Annie Sparling. “So the upgrades to the trail are really important not only to our community, but to tourism and economic development,” she says.

Brendan Sowerby runs the Goderich Bike Shop.

“The G2G trail is a great trail, and it’s giving accessibility to a lot of people to get to a lot of different areas. We’re reducing carbon footprints all over the place and with the COVID cycling boom it just really goes hand in hand,” he says.

With the money raised from the fat bike fundraiser, work on the Road 25 Tunnel should commence this spring, but there are no fewer than 10 separate projects underway to try and fully complete the 140 km trail, connecting Guelph to the shores of Lake Huron.