Last Friday afternoon in Rainy River, about 50 dignitaries from Steinbach to Atikokan gathered at the birthplace of the Manitoba-Ontario-Minnesota (M.O.M.’s) Way to officially open what’s being pitched as an alternate route between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg.
A consultant who looked at the idea identified a potential for increased traffic on the highway between Shabaqua, Ont. and Steinbach, Man.
In the summer months, the traffic between Thunder Bay and Winnipeg spikes to 3,400 vehicles per day on the Trans-Canada Highway.
If just five percent of that traffic was diverted to M.O.M.’s Way, that would mean 170 more vehicles travelling through every day--creating an opportunity to generate more tourist dollars for communities along the route.
With a strategic plan in hand and the consultant’s statistics, the Town of Rainy River enlisted the help of the Rainy River Future Development Corp. to make the concept a reality.
Geoff Gillon of the RRFDC called a meeting of all the communities along the route and before long, the concept was more than just a concept.
From the drawing board came the name M.O.M.’s Way because it was felt using the initials from each of the three jurisdictions would have tremendous marketing potential.
Ideas like hosting the world’s largest Mother’s Day party every year, and businesses serving things like mom’s apple pie, caught fire and the name stuck.
With everyone from Steinbach to Atikokan on board, it was hoped the signage would go up last year. But, in fact, there was much work to do yet and funding had to be sought.
Steinbach Mayor Les Magnusson said his council was in favour of such a proposal but had not budgeted for it in 1998. In 1999, however, his community came on board with $10,000.
Baudette and Warroad together committed $10,000, as did the RRFDC and FedNor.
That paid for the first phase, which has seen signs erected all along the way in the past few weeks, including two in Rainy River and Baudette.
Larger billboards also were erected at Shabaqua, and permission was received last week to put one up at Dufresne, Man.
Part of the above funding also was allocated to brochures, which will be circulated in the upcoming weeks.
Gillon said before they actively market the concept, they wanted to be sure the infrastructure was in place. Now that phase one is nearing completion, efforts will focus on building awareness at the local level so that when travellers do take M.O.M.’s Way, they will be greeted by knowledgeable people all along it.
Phase two will see mass marketing of M.O.M.’s Way in an effort to generate the increased traffic.
Gillon said the route has a great deal going for it. Besides countless attractions like the Mennonite Village in Steinbach and the huge wild buffalo farms of Rainy River, it also is shorter than the Trans-Canada by 30 km.
“I would like to think it is quicker and easier to take [than Highway 17],” said Gillon.
In his presentation to the crowd last Friday, Gillon billed M.O.M.’s Way as “North America’s Newest Tourism Route.”
Following the speeches at the Rainy River Legion, representatives from each community along the route went outside to officially cut the ribbon.