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Brian Szklarczuk of St. Boniface is organizing a bike group to follow the 'Poutine Trail' that has been introduced by CDEM, the Economic Development Council for Manitoba Bilingual Municipalities.

The idea to follow the trail came about after he looked at its map. As a bike enthusiast, he thought it would be a great way to visit the smaller communities outside of Winnipeg.

Szklarczuk is an experienced gravel-road biker and has created a plan for how participating cyclists will cover the Poutine Trail.

"We're leaving on Sept 2 at 8:00 at Cafe Postal in St. Boniface and we're going to be heading out to Lorette, and then continuing on to Ste. Anne, Richer, Marchand, and then heading over to St. Pierre and we're probably going to stop the day there. That's about 125-140km all on gravel roads," he said. "Day two will take us from St. Pierre to St. Malo, to St. Jean, to St. Agathe and back to the city."

He added that people can meet up with him and only participate in part of the tour if preferred.

"We thought this was a great way to connect people on gravel to the communities and get to eat a lot too, and that way you don't feel so bad eating so much poutine," he said.

Szklarczuk is using the Joie de Vivre and Bikepacking Manitoba Facebook page, as well as emails and phone calls to spread the word.

Roselle Turenne, Tourism Consultant for CDEM, thought the Poutine Trail would be a great way to link some of the southeastern Francophone communities, attract new people to the area, and encourage them to shop locally.  

"This is a new strategy for us, we are really looking to get the people out of the Perimeter and bring them into our small communities, and this is certainly a draw, you know we have 750,000 people next door, why not get them to drive into our towns and experience rural life," she said.

"That's job one if we can bolster the economy of our small towns by having visitation there and having them explore what there is, because I think a lot of these towns people wouldn't think to go to. I personally have never been to Marchand but now I have an excuse to go there, and while I'm there maybe I'll discover a golf course I didn't know that existed or a little shop."

Turenne explained restaurants in eight communities in the southeastern region are taking part in the Poutine Trail, and the trail may expand in the future.

The Poutine Trail opens August 31, and each restaurant has come up with a signature poutine which is posted online. Turenne noted the basic criteria requires hand cut fries and cheese curds, the rest is up the restaurant. Examples include a breakfast poutine and taco poutine.

She added that the CDEM has also developed a new brochure called "Best Rural Day Trips", which encourages people to come experience the beaches, golf courses, and farmer's markets in small communities.

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