[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Friday Feature 2000-11Fr -- The Trans Canada Trail
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The Trans Canada Trail.

November 3, 2000.

A little late again today. Wish we could blame the printing presses, like a certain local newspaper does, but you'd probably figure that one out pretty quickly. Hope you enjoy it anyway.


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The Trans Canada Trail
By Michael Hora (mike@factscanada.com)


You are sitting around one night with a group of friends. Let's say you live in Vancouver, BC, and you and your buddies want to go out for a good brisk walk to perhaps clear your head after too much Chablis and asparagus tips. You put your walkies on and, after checking out the weather channel, set out to rid yourself of the after-dinner effects you've just spent a couple of hundred bucks acquiring. After 11 339 kilometres, and maybe 227 days later (at a pace of 50 clicks per day), you say hello to the warm and friendly folks in St. Johns, Newfoundland. You have just successfully walked the Trans Canada Trail. That dinner back in Vancouver is a distant and warm memory and is doing very little to obliterate the blisters and black fly bites you acquired on the way.

The Trans Canada Trail is the culmination of the efforts of many ordinary people. For its thousands of volunteers, financial contributors, politicos (from all levels of government), and the many visionaries from all across this land who gave this project its life, there has always been the hope that, in its creation, they may have left an indelible mark in which future generations of Canadians can take a large measure of pride. From its humble beginnings in June 1994 to today, more than $6.7 million has been raised to see it through to its targeted opening date of September 9, 2000. Organizers gathered at various sites all across Canada to celebrate the trail's grand opening on that date. One fly in the ointment; a small but crucial leg of the trail will not be available for the trail travellers. Our imaginary after-dinner walkers from lotus land would be the first to suffer the inconvenience.

A fifty metre stretch of the trail proved too much for the trail founders to bridge prior to the grand opening. A rugged gully on the outskirts of Vancouver has proven itself to be perhaps a bridge too far, says trail boss Sherman Olson. Olson, president of the volunteer group whose foresight made the dream possible, admitted yesterday to being stumped by a small ravine that has defied efforts of the trail workers to traverse. Delays in obtaining approval from the governing bodies for the area in question in the municipality of Burnaby, BC, and the matter of coming up with an additional $450 000 for slope and site stabilization and bridge construction has lead Vancouver project manager, Carli Williams, to admitting that the cut has them buffaloed for the time being.

"We're going as fast as we can," he said. "We are looking at around $80 000 just for the bridge alone. No one, in the beginning of this project, envisioned ever putting a footpath in this area."

From its inception, first as a concept then to its completion, the trail has never meant to be a "connect the dots" sort of a trail. Rather than focusing on being the shortest distance between two points, the pathway has retained its original concept and will actively promote scenic and historic views. This will help maintain Canadian's pride and sense of accomplishment as a nation of pioneers and visionaries much as our sea-to-sea railway did in the last century.

It will be a shared use recreational trail and will hit every province and territory with most major Canadian cities taking advantage of its total length of more than 11 000 kilometres. One leg has been extended to reach as far north as Tuktoyaktuk, with Calgary, Alberta, as a starting point. Walkers, snow-mobile enthusiasts, horseback riders, and cross-country skiers are just some of the beneficiaries of its existence. One portion of the trail has already been conquered by dog sled and team. It will also be the longest trail of its type in the world. The land the trail touches will come from five primary land sources. It will utilize existing shared-use trails, federal and provincial parks, Crown lands, abandoned and trailed rail lines, and private lands which have had rights negotiated for them in place. The estimated total price for the trail, if it were to be assessed market value and counted out and paid for at the generally accepted going rate of $40 per metre, has been placed at roughly $803 million. Of course, with a large part of the trail being gifted through various means, this figure would only hold true if the lands had actually been purchased.

The Trans Canada Trail Foundation will remain as an oversight or largely administrative body and will not have title or operative rights to any of its length. The day to day operation of its existence will remain with various jurisdictional bodies whether this be provincial, federal or municipal. Local organizations such as Rotary and Lions clubs will also maintain an interest in it. All provinces and territories will be actively involved through previously set up Trail Councils. The estimated membership of these councils is, at this time, around 1.5 million unpaid and dedicated volunteers.

The trail will mean different things to different Canadians. The primary focus of it is meant to highlight such diverse activities as fitness and recreational use. From this will come many secondary entitlements such as pride and awareness, family unity, educational opportunities, and some mercantile and commercial side benefits. A good case has been put forth that the trail's existence may in fact allow some communities to promote environmental awareness through interpretive centres. Bed and breakfast operations, created to service an anticipated influx of tourists and the like, will also allow some communities to expand their economic horizons without having to resort to becoming the traditional hewers of wood and drawers of water that have been the usual legacies of remote Canadian townships.

The breakdown in funding is as follows; 65 per cent citizen donation, 30 per cent from the corporate domain, and 5 per cent reached through governmental funding agencies. The average private donation is $92 per person. The quest for funding carries on and you can "buy" a metre for $40. All people who have donated their money will have their names inscribed on wall plaques at various sites along the trail such as the interpretive centres and rest stops. As the foundation has charitable status, all donations are accorded a receipt that is tax deductible. Oh, one more thing. Before you set out on the trail, go easy on the Chablis.

More information can be found on the Trans Canada Trail Web site at this link.


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Have a great weekend. If you do all eleven thousand kilometres of the Trans Canada Trail, let us know and we'll publish your story!


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