29 November, 2023

Recognizing and Celebrating Exceptional Volunteerism Along the Trans Canada Trail

A wooden bridge over water with a Trans Canada Trail sticker on the post

This year, Trans Canada Trail created a new fund aimed at recognizing and celebrating exceptional volunteerism along the Trail. Communities across Canada came together to celebrate longtime, dedicated volunteers and recognize their impact in their local trail organization. We are extraordinarily grateful for the support, enthusiasm and love that volunteers show the Trans Canada Trail every day.

A champion for active transportation in Stratford, Ontario

The Town of Stratford recognized Holly Smith, a volunteer for over 15 years with the town’s active transportation committee. Holly is particularly proud of seeing the completion of the Trail over the Hillsborough Bridge and through Stratford.

Holly describes her motivation : “Healthy living and being as active as possible both played a role in my choosing to volunteer in the trail sector. I believe the Trans Canada Trail is one of the best things we’ve developed in Canada. It provides an alternative transportation route to other parts of our communities (and perhaps an emergency route in a crisis), provides exercise that is free and that can be a stress reliever, a platform where everyone can participate, feel welcome and enjoy our great outdoors.”

“Let’s get it done and move on to the next job.”

In the Newbay region of Newfoundland along the East Coast Trail, Roy Folkes has been an active member of Exploits Trailnet for 16 years. In that time, he’s been a primary groomer operator, bridge designer and installation expert, and has been involved with culvert installation, alder mulching and signage installation, among other things.

Dave Noel, president of Exploits Trailnet, praises Roy’s contributions: “Roy has been instrumental in the growth of our club. Additionally, he was one of the leading advocates for the development of the former railbed (now the Trans Canada Trail) into the primary link that connects all four of our cottage areas.”

Dedicating 25 years to local trails

Three volunteers standing on the Trans Canada Trail. One volunteer is holding a plaque.

Andy Penikett is a longtime volunteer with Voyageur Trail Association and Penewobikong Hiking Group. He has dedicated over 25 years to maintaining and enhancing his local Trail section. Carolynn Reid, who nominated Andy for the award, states, “For more than 25 years, Andy has led, prioritized and undertaken all efforts to keep this 45-kilometre section of trail clear for the community and interested hikers to enjoy. Andy takes pride in the Penewobikong section, having shared stories about the history of hiking in Blind River. Congratulations, Andy, on a well-deserved award.”

Community involvement at its finest

Volunteers sitting at a picnic table at an event in Gibbons, Alberta

In Gibbons, Alberta, both Gibbons School and Gibbons Public Works were recognized for their exceptional work along the Trans Canada Trail. In their own words, they describe why volunteering with their local trail group is impactful:

“Gibbons School has been helping keep the trails clean in Gibbons for what may easily be 20-plus years. This trail is the heart of Gibbons and being so close to the access point of the trail, we feel it is important for all staff and students to do their part in making sure everyone can enjoy it. Our kids and their families go down for river walks, our staff and their families do as well. We could not be happier to volunteer our time to help make sure these trails stay the best they can be.” — Gibbons School

Gibbons Public Works describes their motivation: “Taking care of the trails for us is a 365-day-a-year job. But every year we come together as a team and do even a little more outside of our work schedule because we know how important these trails are to people. We are the ones out there talking to the people using these trails and hearing how great the shape of the trails is something we always love to hear. Our department works and lives in the outdoors, so choosing to put time and effort into our trails is an easy decision and our team could not be happier to do so year after year.”

Developing the Fundy Footpath and more hiking trails

Since 1982 – over 40 years ago – Bill Mayo has been instrumental in maintaining and raising awareness about the Trail. He has been helping with maintenance on the Dobson Trail in Fundy National Park. He also maintained Route 910 up to Prosser Ridge for the Moncton Outdoor Enthusiasts, and several times, he organized and participated in hiking the Dobson Trail in one day. At 90, Bill continues to be an active volunteer with the Fundy Hiking Trail Association, often alongside his son, Blair. “I just forget I’m 90. I walk every day, somewhere,” he says.

The Fundy Hiking Trail Association also recognized Alonzo Leger, who, along with his brother Gilles, reestablished and further built out the Fundy Footpath in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A longtime community volunteer, Alonzo helped develop, build and operate a province-wide, shared use, all-season system of trails with the New Brunswick government. He also was instrumental in having Explore Magazine list the Fundy Footpath as one of the best hiking trails in the world in 2015. As a result of his vision and preoccupation for world-class trail experiences in New Brunswick, he was awarded the NB Tourism Association’s “Pioneer Award” in 2016.

Managing the local rail trail and leaving a legacy for future generations

In Cumberland County, Nova Scotia, six longtime volunteers were recognized: Gerry McLellan, Jerry Cloutier, Sheldon Conrad, Ron Urquhart, Vaughn Angus and Kenneth Cloutier. Each of these people has had a significant impact on trails in northern Nova Scotia, like Ron Urquhart, who helped to establish the key trail groups that manage their local sections of the Trans Canada Trail, or Gerry McLellan, who has been actively supporting trails for over 40 years and recently played a role in the development of a trail running through the Town of Oxford.

A collective 150 years of volunteering for Pinawa Trails

Snow covering the Pinawa Trail bridge and surrounding trees

The Pinawa Trails Association recognized the entirety of their volunteer team. They explained, “We found it hard to single out one individual. Our team is a dedicated well-oiled machine that just keeps on pushing every year improving some section or sections of our trail. We decide what section or sections need work in the spring and just keep ordering material and putting together teams to go out and get the work done.”

The Town of Lumsden installs two benches in honour of longtime volunteer

In Lumsden, Saskatchewan, Gary Howland is known for establishing the first section of the Trail in the Lumsden area – a trail section that was created by following natural deer trails, so no surrounding trees were removed. During the trail’s development, Gary and his wife, Michelle, purchased land en route to ensure it would remain untouched! Since then, the trail has grown to include parking areas, info kiosks, and even a pedestrian bridge. To celebrate Gary’s contribution, the Town of Lumsden installed two benches along the Trail in Gary’s honour. Chris Exner from the Town of Lumsden says, “Gary and Michelle are an inspiration to the next generation of trail builders. Gary always has a smile on his face when he sees or hears about someone enjoying a walk on the trail.”

The Trans Canada Trail 2023 Volunteer of the Year winners

A group of Trans Canada Trail volunteers at a Trail Care Event

Holly Smith, Town of Stratford, Ontario

Roy Folkes, Exploits Trailnet, Newfoundland and Labrador

Andy Penikett, Voyageur Trail Association and Penewobikong Hiking Group, Ontario

Gibbons School and Gibbons Public Works, Town of Gibbons, Alberta

Alonzo Leger and Bill Mayo, New Brunswick Trails, New Brunswick

Gerry McLellan, Jerry Cloutier, Sheldon Conrad, Ron Urquhart, Vaughn Angus and Kenneth Cloutier, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

The team at Pinawa Trails Association, Manitoba

Gary Howland, Lumsden, Saskatchewan

Kimberley Trail Society, British Columbia

Daniel Perron, Town of Hay River, Northwest Territories