Canada completes world's longest hiking trail Part of the Great Trail in Nova Scotia (Dennis Jarvis/Wikimedia Commons)
Canada completes world's longest hiking trail
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Organizers have stitched together the missing links in Canada’s Great Trail. They connected a 14,000-mile route. It is used for hiking, biking and paddling. It stretches coast-to-coast, as Kenny Sharpe reports for The Globe and Mail. It is a huge feat. It was officially finished on August 26. It makes the Great Trail the longest recreational trail system in the world.

The Great Trail was founded by Pierre Camu, Bill Pratt and Paul LaBarge. That was 25 years ago. They came up with the idea of linking Canada’s various trail networks. They wanted to turn them into one mega-trail. This was to celebrate the nation’s 125th birthday. Since then, tens of millions of dollars have been spent. The money went to trail building. It went to signage and negotiations with landowners and local governments. Four hundred and seventy-seven groups helped to create the trail’s 432 sections. It passes through 15,000 communities.

In September of 2016, the trail was only 85 to 90 percent connected. That's according to Tim Huebsch. He works for Canadian Cycling. Over the last year organizers made a big push. They worked with counties and municipalities to negotiate interim solutions for the missing bits of trail. 

“We were faced with the challenge to get the trail assembled. Our priority was to get it done,” LeBarge tells Sharpe. 

“Our second priority is now to get the signage up.  People should know they are on the Trans Canada Trail.”

Not everyone is impressed by the Great Trail. It was formerly known as the Trans-Canada Trail. That's according to Jason Markusoff at MacLean’s. Reportedly, the route falls short of its original goal of being an off-road trail. Only around 4,900 miles of the route are composed of off-road trails. That is only equal to 32 percent. About 5,340 miles of the trail are along roads or the shoulders of highways. Another 3,770 miles are water trails. And 1,110 miles share the trail with ATVs.

Markusoff points out that much of the section between Edmonton and Calgary follows busy Highway 2A. This is a route very few people would be willing to ride or hike. 

Edmund Aunger is a retiree. He is biking the length of the trail. He tells Markusoff that the trail's name is dangerously misleading. “It’s only going to attract people who believe the image that’s presented, and the propaganda and their interactive map and app.” 

Sharpe reports that the organizers say connecting up the route is just phase one of the project. Now they have a rough draft of a route. But over time they hope to refine the route. They want to make it safer. They hope communities opposed to supporting off-road trails or bike lanes will see the value of the project.

Despite the criticisms, there's excitement over the route. Over the weekend there were over 200 celebrations along the path to celebrate the connection. “We’ve built it, we’ve connected it, we’re ready. The next chapter is, 'Come on world, come see what Canada has to offer,” Deborah Apps tells Sharpe. She is president of the project.

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Why was the completion of The Great Trail in Canada such a momentous occasion?
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