Contributions to the Trans Canada Trail Foundation will go a little further from now on as the federal government aims to have an unbroken national chain of recreational trails go as far as Canada’s three oceans by 2017.
After walking on a segment of the trail in rainy Victoria on Tuesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the announcement that the government would commit one dollar to the project for every two dollars raised through public contributions by the Trans Canada Trail Foundation.
The federal funding limit for the donation matching program is $25 million over four years.
A government release said the trail will help connect Canadians to nature, provide health benefits and inspiration, and generate millions in economic benefits.
The trail project began in 1992, as part of Canada’s 125th birthday celebrations. The goal is to complete it from the Atlantic to the Pacific and Arctic oceans by 2017 to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary.
Nearly 17,000 km of trail is already operational across the country, with the end result expected to cover 24,000 km.
Alberta trails other provinces when it comes to Trans Canada Trail development, with many segments of trail completed but missing connecting linkages.
In Central Alberta, there is a trail connection between Red Deer and Lacombe, with the Blackfalds to Lacombe section having opened in 2013. Plans are in place for sections reaching from Ponoka to Bowden, with county governments on board with trail proposals but concerned about the costs they could incur.
Thus, said Central Alberta Regional Trails Society vice-president Paul Pettypiece, increased government funding could give those projects the needed push.
“It is excellent news because there are a lot of trail projects in Central Alberta that need completing,” said Pettypiece.
Lacombe County has plans to bring the trail from its current endpoint near its northern boundary to Lacombe. Trails between Red Deer and Penhold are in the works and a concept plan for trails connecting Penhold to Innisfail and Bowden has been considered by Red Deer County council and town councils along the route.
Capital development costs for a Penhold to Bowden trail could range from $29,800 for a crude trail to over $6 million for a fully-developed track, according to the concept plan.
“I certainly think it’s possible to complete the links (by 2017). It’s not a sure thing by any means but it’s certainly possible,” said Pettypiece, “From Bowden south, that’s a little trickier. I can’t see that being completed, but who knows? If there’s enough money, anything’s possible.”
When Blackfalds’ Abbey Centre multi-purpose facility opens in March, it will feature what Pettypiece believes will be the only indoor stretch of the trail. Designed to accommodate activities such as hiking, cycling, horseback-riding, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and canoeing, the part land, part water national trail will be one of the longest recreational trail networks in the world.
Municipalities or regional/provincial trail groups can apply to the Trans Canada Trail Foundation for funding to complete a stretch of the trail and provide trail maintenance. For more information, visit www.tctrail.ca.