A message from Catherine McKenna, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change
In my hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, there are leafy trails that meander through orange and yellow forests, and across clear, gurgling streams. It’s on these paths where I liked to run, hike and bike.
Today, sections of these trails are part of a larger system – The Great Trail – that extends from the pebbly beaches of Vancouver Island to the freezing waters of the Arctic, all the way to the mossy bluffs of Newfoundland. When I think of this, I am heartened: Canadians across this country can experience the joy I felt in Hamilton.
The Great Trail linkages are now complete. It took hard work and dedication from a legion of volunteers from every part of the country. It’s 24,410 kilometres long and connects 15,000 communities across an epic network; and to build on the work already done, the federal government recently announced $30-million in funding to enhance and maintain it.
Today, the Trail is already inspiring Canadians.
In the small town of Sparwood, B.C., a teacher and his class constructed a giant welcome arch over The Great Trail. Over the course of a month, teachers, students and volunteers erected three 16-foot cedar logs that arch over the Elk Pass section, a symbol of teamwork and appreciation of nature in the midst of Canada’s Rockies.
On the pole they carved different animals found in the area, like bears, deer and an eagle, and when the students weren’t working, the teachers and volunteers took them hiking, fishing and swimming in the area. Clearly this was the best class to sign up for!
Others have been inspired to test their limits and, in doing so, experienced the grand sweep of our country.
In 2016, two women were attempting to hike the entire distance of The Great Trail, but in different directions. Dianne Whelan, a filmmaker, and Sarah Jackson, a sociology student, hiked, biked and paddled across Canada in blistering heat and torrential rain.
“I think what makes [The Great Trail] so special is the fact that it ties us not only to the land, but to the history. I’ve walked through places that I had read about in class, but didn’t connect with,” Jackson told the CBC.
These enthusiasts – Sarah, Dianne and The Sparwood students – are only a few of the thousands of Canadians= who use The Great Trail every day; to bike through pine forests, hike along glistening lakes and walk below maples turning red in the autumn cold.
This is a remarkable legacy. And it’s thanks to the thousands of volunteers, partners and donors who worked to make this historic project possible. It’s now up to us to enjoy it with our friends and families.
Early this year, Sarah Jackson became the first women on record to complete the Trail from the Pacific to the Atlantic, after a two-year adventure. Her description of her journey to a CBC reporter summed up best the spirit of the Trail:
“At night, I’m walking under the stars…[and] I go to bed thinking I live in the most beautiful place.”
I couldn’t agree more. I think the same thing when I see families biking in my riding of Ottawa-Centre, along the riverside path behind Parliament Hill. This, too, is part of The Great Trail, and it’s the perfect place for young children and parents to enjoy the Ottawa River and its beauty.
This is what The Great Trail is all about: connecting with nature and one another.