OTTAWA -- A new challenge along the St. Lawrence is asking people to get out and explore the trails in their communities, and it also helps local businesses.

Three townships have partnered together—the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands, Front of Yonge and the Town of Gananoque—to promote the many trail systems throughout the area.

"The idea is to explore what we can and what is accessible to us in our back yard, which is really so many options. It doesn't have to be far to enjoy a great adventure," said Town of Gananoque community services coordinator Emily Parker.

"We know that the area is very beautiful and there is lots to do in a time when we were all looking for things to do, especially staying active during the pandemic," Parker added.

The challenge is open to anyone. There are several trails to hike and walk, including Jones Creek, Marble Rock Conservation Area, Charleston Lake Provincial Park and Landon Bay, in Thousand Islands National Park.

"Lookout Trail is one of the more common trails," said Cara Lemkay, recreation coordinator for the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands. "It's shorter, more of a moderate hike for some. It depends on your pace because it is an elevation to get to the lookout at the top."

Richard Marcoux, Cara Lemkay

"It's social distancing, out in nature, (and you) can use the parkway as one of the trails along with all of the other ones," said Front of Yonge councillor Richard Marcoux.

"This is something where everybody can learn something new and the main thrust was to get people off their couches and out into nature," Marcoux added. "Get some of this beautiful fresh air and be with their families."

Residents and tourists are encouraged to take photos along their hikes, including scenic shots, family portraits, selfies and pets, and submit them online through the Leeds and the Thousand Islands website.

"You can submit your information and a photo, and then you get a chance to win a gift card," parker said. "Contest winners are announced every Tuesday afternoon until the end of August."

"We choose a winner from each township and give them a gift certificate for a local vendor to promote them," said Marcoux.

"They're finding new things, like somebody makes something with beeswax. You can explore the country and at the same time explore the vendors in your area," he added.

David Chambers and Nathalie Larocque, visiting from Ottawa, just completed the Landon Bay Lookout Trail Thursday morning.

Lookout Trail

"It's a beautiful walk, beautiful view, really rugged, lots of rocks but not, like it's 2.4 kilometres, it's not too hard," Chambers said.

They snapped photos at the top of the lookout and said they are looking forward to submitting them.

"Definitely going to send in a picture. We've done some walking along the Thousand Islands; it's definitely a hidden gem. Gananoque itself is really cute. The trails along the parkway are really nice. There's a bit of everything," Chambers added.

The team has even received feedback from long time residents about trails they have never explored.

"One of the things they said was, 'We enjoyed the trail we didn't know was here,' and they were surprised by the lake that ran through the area," said Lemkay about a trail along Jones Creek.

"I would say that Jones Creek is actually probably a favourite. There's a lot of diversity and it is accessible for the first part of the trail so I think that's an excellent spot to get started in our area," she added.

Lookout trail

"Of course we're in the beautiful region of eastern Ontario. There's so much that you could go on and do an adventure every day and find something beautiful to see and enjoy," added Parker. "You don't have to go far to have a great adventure and that's kind of the idea."

For trail locations and maps, the Frontenac Arch Biosphere website is a great resource.