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What is the longest network of recreational trails in the world?

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The Trans Canada Trail – rebranded in 2017 as the Great Trail – is the longest network of recreational trails in the world. It extends about 24,100 kilometres across Canada, connecting 15,000 communities in every province and territory. The Great Trail is made up of sections developed by local groups and their names evoke a sense of place in history: the Confederation Trail, the Fundy Trail, the Celtic Shores Coastal Trail, the Niagara River Recreational Trail, the Voyageur Trail, the Lachine Canal Trail, Sentier Gabrielle-Roy, Pinawa Trail, Banff Legacy Trail, the Galloping Goose Trail, and Klondike Trail, among more than 400 community trails. All of them represent parts of our history and the Great Trail provides a wide range of activities through a vast array of landscapes – urban, rural, wilderness, along greenways, waterways and roadways.

The Trans Canada Trail is a legacy project from Canada's 125th anniversary. It was founded in Summerside, Prince Edward Island on 18 September 1992 and was the brainchild of two individuals: William 'Bill' Pratt (1928-1999) from Calgary, Alberta; and Pierre Camu (1923- ) from Ottawa, Ontario. On that day, a resolution was passed by the board members of Canada 125 Corporation to proceed with the creation of a Canada-wide walking trail as a tangible and symbolic thread that would connect Canadians from coast to coast to coast. This Corporation was the organization charged with the task of finding or creating a fitting legacy to commemorate Canada's 125th anniversary. The project was the result of a combined effort of thousands of volunteers who share the vision of connecting the world's second-largest country by trail and it continues to be financially supported by individuals, corporations, foundations and all levels of government. Prince Edward Island was the first of the provinces to complete its section of the Great Trail – known as Confederation Trail – in August 2000 and the last connecting piece to this national project was added in August 2017 when a pedestrian bridge was put in place in Moosejaw, Saskatchewan, officially completing the link to all ten provinces and three territories from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic Oceans during Canada's sesquicentennial anniversary. While the concept began as a walking trail, it quickly evolved into a multi-use trail network where you can walk, cycle, paddle, ski, horseback ride, or snowmobile on different parts of the trail depending on where you are. Locally owned and maintained, the trails are free and accessible. The Trans Canada Trail Foundation, incorporated in October 2010, is the national not-for-profit organization responsible for fundraising to support the advancement of Trans Canada Trail's vision and mission.

Shown in the photograph is a distinctive, three-pronged metal sculpture in the form and colours of the Trans Canada Trail logo mounted on a concrete plinth bearing a granite plaque, marking Summerside, Price Edward Island, as the official birthplace of the Trans Canada Trail. The commemorative plaque and logo was unveiled on 17 June 2000 by: Dr. Sherman Olson (1928-2013), National President of the Trans Canada Trail; Mayor Basil L. Stewart, Canada 125th board member, Trans Canada Trail founding board member; Hon. Greg Deighan (1956- ), PEI Minister of Tourism; and Joe McGuire (1944- ), Member of Parliament. The monument is situated near the historic Summerside railway station, the location of the official trailhead for the Great Trail and Confederation Trail. It is important to note that well north of the Arctic Circle, the hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk (population: 852) is the site of a colorful northern Mile Zero marker that connects the Great Trail’s remote northern routes with the rest of the country. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the path at 24 Sussex Drive and on the grounds of Rideau Hall has been designated an honorary section of the Trail with a plaque unveiling held at 24 Sussex on 24 May 2013 by Their Excellencies The Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston, TCT Honorary Patrons, and Mrs. Laureen Harper, TCT Honorary Campaign Chair.

On this day, 18 September 2022, we commemorate the 30th anniversary of the creation of the Great Trail and mark more than 22 years since the unveiling of the monument marking Summerside, Prince Edward Island, as the birthplace of the longest network of recreational trails in the world.

André M. Levesque

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