An off-the-wall idea for a headframe: Fitness entrepreneur eyes shuttered mine property as unique recreational venue.

AuthorRomaniuk, Colleen

Alex Gagnon is an entrepreneur that deals in thrills.

He also dreams of putting Timmins on the map as a top tourist destination in Northern Ontario.

For the past three years, the owner of Timmins Fitness Alternative has served his hometown with a menu of off-the-wall activities.

Now, he's turning his attention to an even bigger attraction: the unoccupied Hollinger headframe.

Located near downtown Timmins, the headframe is part of the historical Hollinger Gold Mine, operational between 1910 and 1968.

Standing 60 metres tall (120 feet), it's the tallest man-made structure in town.

If Gagnon has his way, the headframe will soon become "an adventure tourism location."

Picture visitors scaling its exterior on a via ferrata (Italian for "iron path"), which is a climbing route, popularized in Europe, that uses cables and rebar.

The idea came from the property's owner and Gagnon's supporter, Antonio Kos, a Timmins physician who also owns the nearby Hollinger Golf Club.

His family were mountaineers in northern Italy. The via ferrata is a good way to honour this tradition.

Kos jokingly suggested that Gagnon could climb the structure provided he paint it on the way down.

From the panoramic view of the city atop the headframe, climbers can rappel, or, if they are feeling really adventurous, "house-run" down the wall to the ground.

If they can get the route installed this spring, Gagnon said it will be North America's first via ferrata on a man-made structure.

The climbing experience will also feature a historical tour of the property, where guests can participate in an "escape-the-mine" activity.

Being a family physician, Kos is very interested in promoting physical activity.

"We're moving forward with the idea," he said. "The headframe is a landmark and we would like to keep it active.

"This is something we can promote as an alternative for people seeking a healthy lifestyle."

But the plan doesn't end there. Gagnon intends to build a World Chase Tag obstacle course, a new sport developed in the last couple of years, a combination of parkour, ninja, and tag.

Gagnon is in talks with the organizers of World Chase Tag, with the intention of hosting the national qualifiers at the location.

The complex will also hold a climbing wall and spaces to host most of the activities he's offered at Timmins Fitness Alternatives for the last three years.

After completing his studies in psychology, science, and communications, Gagnon returned to his hometown to help...

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