Trans Canada Trail Nears Completion

A little over a year from now on July 1, 2017, Canada will celebrate its one hundred and fiftieth birthday.  To coincide with the festivities, Canadian officials are pushing for the completion of the Trans Canada Trail, a series of bikeways and waterways that will connect Canada from sea (Atlantic Ocean) to shining sea (Pacific Ocean) to shining sea (Arctic Ocean).

Milepost zero, Trans Canada Trail, St. Johns Newfoundland.  By DetroitBob (Own work by DetroitBob) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Milepost zero, Trans Canada Trail, St. Johns Newfoundland. Photo by DetroitBob [CC BY-SA 3.0]

This is an old map.  The trail is now 80% complete.  New sections are opening all the time.

This is an old map. The trail is now 80% complete. New sections are opening all the time.

I hadn’t heard of the Trans Canada Trail until recently.  While researching routes for a transcontinental bicycle trip across the United States, I stumbled onto the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, a section of the Trans Canada Trail in southern British Columbia.  As I continued to explore online resources, I started thinking that maybe I should just ride across Canada instead.  Maybe it’s just me, but taking a stunning rail trail across the Rockies beats the living daylights out of cycling along the shoulder of Interstate 40 with eighteen wheelers whizzing by for hundreds of miles across the Desert Southwest.

Oh Canada, you rock.  I, Clayoquot [GFDL  CC-BY-SA 3.0http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0]

Oh Canada, you rock. Photo by Clayoquot [GFDL CC-BY-SA 3.0http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0]

Trout Creek Trestle on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail, British Columbia By Accuruss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Trout Creek Trestle on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail section of the Trans Canada Trail, British Columbia By Accuruss (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Fatbikes on the Trans Canada Trail.  Photo By Anthony DeLorenzo from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada (End of a Long Day) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Fatbikes on the Trans Canada Trail. Photo By Anthony DeLorenzo from Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada [CC BY 2.0]

 It turns out that our Canadian neighbors have been at this national trail building thing for close to twenty five years and they’re now within sight of the finish  line. I’m impressed.  This is no small thing.  Canada is the second largest country in the world when it comes to real estate, and even though most of the population lives relatively close to the US border Canadian officials and trail builders have created a network of trails that goes just about everywhere across the Great White North.  Some places you go by foot or bicycle.  Other places, you go by canoe or kayak.  Want to head west to the Pacific?  You can do that.  Want to take off north to the Arctic Ocean and northern lights?  Yep, that too.  Wherever you go, you won’t be sharing your little piece of Canada with motor vehicles.  It’s a beautiful thing they’re doing.  Thank you, Canada.

Here are some interesting facts about the Trans Canada Trail I want to share with you.  These are taken directly from the official TCT website.

  • When completed, the TCT will be the world’s longest connected trail network at close to 24,000 kilometers (15,000 miles).
  • It will connect over 1,000 communities, and four out of five Canadians will live within 30 minutes of the trail.
  • Over 500 individual trails will have been patched together to create the national trail network.  It is truly a grassroots effort with lots of cooperation from all quarters.
  • It is a gift from Canadians to Canadians.
  • There are environmental, recreational, transportation and even economic development benefits.

Similar efforts are underway to connect regions of the United States with trails.  The Great Allegheny Passage already links Washington DC to Pittsburg and I’ve written about the remarkable work that advocates are doing to link trails in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

Even so, we have a lot of catching up to do.  Canada is running laps around us so here’s a thought.  We have our own big birthday bash coming up in ten years.  We’re going to be 250 years old, and I think it would be a really wonderful thing if we decided to get on board and do what Canada is doing and connect every nook and cranny of this great nation so that we could all get around by bicycle.  Even better, let’s figure out how to interconnect our trail network with the Trans Canada Trail so that someday it will be possible to hop on a bike in Nome Alaska and ride car-free all the way to Key West, Florida.

I’m tired of hearing why we can’t do this sort of thing.  We can.  Canada is.  We have political cover now.  No excuses.  Let’s build it.  We’ll all be better for it…each and every one of us.

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