Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Friendship Trail and the abandoned amusement parks

The Niagara Region has a 150km loop of multi-use trails that run along the Welland Canal, Lake Erie, Niagara River and Lake Ontario called the Greater Niagara Circle Route Trails. We have done the majority of the Welland Canal Trail (from Lock 3 to Port Dalhousie) and wanted to try the Friendship Trail which runs between Port Colborne and Fort Erie, a distance of 24km, on a wide, paved path that used to be an old rail line.

A ship transits into the Welland Canal and passes the Clarence Street bridge at the start of the Friendship Trail
A warning barrier has a graffiti painting of Marilyn Monroe

The trail doesn't stray too far from the shores of Lake Erie and the old rail bed provided for gentle slopes which makes the biking easy. The pathway signs indicate the intersecting roads along with points of interest and directions if you want to explore more of the area.

To start off we parked at the Welland Canal Lock Number 8 Park which has a public bathroom and free parking. There is also plenty of free parking near the start of the Friendship Trail as well as along the route (at Ridge Road, Crescent Road and Lakeshore Road). Then we biked along the end of the Welland Canal Trail until we joined up with the Friendship Trail running east along Durham Street. Then it was sweet cycling watching the many factories and houses transition into farmland and residential areas.

The Crystal Beach welcome sign
Looking towards old Crystal Beach pier

We took a 2.5km detour from the path to check out Crystal Beach which was once home to a significant amusement park from 1888 to 1989. All that seems to remain is the large pier which was used by ferries to bring the people to the park - none of the attractions or giant roller coaster that ran right beside the water still remain. It actually far outlasted the Fort Erie park and some of its attractions were brought to Crystal Beach. After checking out the current beach we made our way back to the trail and continued until we hit Fort Erie.

The Friendship trail moved onto a large sidewalk on Edgemere Road in Fort Erie and continues through a future development until you get to Lakeshore Road and the Niagara River Recreational Trail. We detoured off the path to walk along the beach of Lake Erie through the remains of the old Lake Erie Beach Park.

Information on the old Lake Erie Amusement Park
Some foundations for the plane ride

The Lake Erie amusement park operated from 1885 until just after the start of the Great Depression in 1930. Only concrete structures and steps remain, including bases for the plane ride, the old pier and a small wall that that winds around the edge of the water - it used to be one of the largest outdoor swimming pools in the world at one time. The city has put up posters with information and pictures showing the extent of the old fairgrounds.

We had a lunch along the edge of the Niagara River just downstream from the Peace Bridge 
Then it was back to the park at Welland Canal Lock 8 for the end of our 65km ride

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