The Making of The Great Trail

The Quarter Century Mark

Paul LaBarge
Photo by Jean-Marie Carisse

When I look back over the past 25 years and think about how many Canadians have been involved in building The Great Trail, I’m humbled and amazed.

Not often in a lifetime do you have the opportunity to participate in creating an icon for the future of your country. It has been an honour for me, personally. I was one of the original incorporators in 1992, along with TCT founders, Pierre Camu and Bill Pratt, and have been involved for the past 25 years. Over that time, I have been privileged to work with so many people across the country in the development of this extraordinary project.

The Trail reaffirms the greatness of our country and its communities, and epitomizes our Canadian idea of community – a shared outdoor space for people to come together, enjoy some fresh air and get fit while making connections with family and meeting friends, both old and new.

It is almost impossible to name all of those who have built this Trail, but I can say this: The Great Trail exists because there are always people prepared to step in, turn their faces toward the horizon, pick up where others have left off, and move the Trail forward a few more kilometres. We are so grateful for all the volunteers, Trail partners, Board members, donors, TCT Foundation and Chapter 150 campaign cabinet, government at all levels, builders, national Champions and staff who have risen to the challenge of making this dream a reality.

Although my term as Chair expires this year, my passion for The Great Trail will never diminish. I’m enormously proud of every person who has given their time and resources or lent their public profiles to this quintessential Canadian project. This is your Trail. Build it, use it, treasure it and protect it, it is your legacy to your children and your children’s children and a tangible monument to this great country!

The Next Chapter

Deborah Apps
Photo by Andrew Penner

This has been a monumental year, with each passing day bringing us closer and closer to connecting 24,000 km of trails from coast to coast to coast. We are now set to celebrate a powerful symbol of Canadian unity, a national trail that will link the country across our vast geographic landscape.

In 2017, we celebrate not only the making of The Great Trail, but also a new beginning. As we look back on the amazing accomplishments of the past 25 years, we also look toward the future, focusing on the continued growth, enhancement and preservation of this shared national treasure. Our goal is for Canadians and visitors from around the world to enjoy the Trail for generations to come.

While celebrating the accomplishments of the past quarter century and reaffirming our goals for the future, it’s important to pause and honour the great effort that went into making this bold dream a reality. When the idea took root in 1992, there were only a few dedicated and visionary people involved. Today, it’s my pleasure to thank the thousands of committed volunteers, donors and employees at all levels of government – municipal, regional, provincial, territorial and federal – who made it happen. Trans Canada Trail is its volunteers, donors and outdoor enthusiasts: everyone is to be commended and we encourage all to share in the celebration.

It’s no casual coincidence that we’re celebrating this year – the year of Canada’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. The past 12 months in particular were a flurry of activity, as we strove to unite the country in tandem with the sesquicentennial. Thanks to the tremendous commitment of our provincial and territorial partners, and the dedication of tens of thousands of volunteers we reached milestone after milestone across the country, including reaching 100 per cent connection in Yukon, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

In New Brunswick, the connection milestone was marked at a public celebration at Government House, the historic residence of the province’s Lieutenant-Governors, hosted by Her Honour The Honourable Jocelyne Roy Vienneau. In Saskatchewan, festivities took place in conjunction with the unveiling of the new Trans Canada Trail Pedestrian Bridge in Wakamow Valley, part of The Great Trail. In Yukon, the Trail’s 100 per cent connection was marked at the historic Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous, the territory’s renowned annual winter event. While these three celebrations of connection occurred in different geographic areas of the country, they shared a notable pride, joy and camaraderie.

The achievements of 2016/2017 that contributed to our success were fueled by our donors. We greatly appreciate everyone who made a contribution, and shared in our national dream. TCT takes its financial responsibilities seriously, making sure that every donor dollar is wisely invested. Through our Chapter 150 Campaign, generous individuals and organizations committed to a minimum $500,000 gift in support of TCT, helping to create the momentum needed to ensure Trail connection. Like its citizens, the Canadian government enthusiastically shares in the vision of developing Canada’s national trail and continues to financially support its development. There are so many people to thank for their support, but I would like to personally extend my gratitude to the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, and the Honourable Bill Morneau, Minister of Finance, for their ongoing collaboration and support.

Many organizations and business partners have played their part in the successes of 2016/2017. We have friends at ParticipACTION who help promote healthy living and fitness on the Trail. Our partners at BC Ferries and Northumberland Ferries are helping to connect the Trail across water. You will find a full list of our Strategic Alliances on page 17 of this report. As our organization looks at its next 25 years, TCT plans on nurturing more such relationships to enrich The Great Trail.

While we can take great pride in this year’s achievements, connection does not mean completion. The Great Trail is a long-term project and each generation will have its part to play in maintaining and developing new Trail. With this in mind, we’re using the momentum from the past year to create the next strategic plan to drive our priorities in the post-connection phase. In 2017/2018 and beyond, we will continue to work with our friends across the country, and all levels of government to enhance and improve the Trail – for example, this year the Rick Hansen Foundation (RHF) celebrates the 30th anniversary of the inspirational Man in Motion World Tour, and we are delighted to be collaborating with RHF to determine how we can make the Trail more accessible for the 3.8 million Canadians with disabilities. We will also continue to work on tourism marketing to ensure that The Great Trail is promoted nationally and internationally. It’s our intention to make sure the world’s community of outdoor enthusiasts has The Great Trail on their radar, and on their ‘bucket list’.

A cherished and well-used Trail was always the goal of Paul LaBarge, our longest serving board member and champion. This year, we say farewell to Paul, who will retire after decades guiding and representing the organization through these important years of connection and promotion. We thank Paul for his tireless work over the last 25 years – he has been an enthusiastic and visionary leader.

We will miss working with Paul, but we will be in good hands, as we welcome incoming TCT Chair, Neil Yeates, who has been on the Board since 2013. He is an outdoor enthusiast who brings great passion to TCT, along with expertise and experience in government.

The last quarter century taught us that the smallest steps in the right direction make a dream come true. And, so the next adventure begins!

Thank you