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Ottawa to help fund completion of Trans Canada Trail

The push to complete the Trans Canada Trail for the nation's 150th birthday will get some financial momentum on Friday in Vancouver, where federal Environment Minister Jim Prentice is expected to announce up to $10-million in funding for the project.

Mr. Prentice is scheduled to make the announcement at Vancouver's Stanley Park, where a paved seawall links to other city trails that are now part of the national system.

Begun in 1992 to commemorate Canada's 125th birthday, the Trans Canada Trail is the world's longest trail network and comprises nearly 400 trails ranging from logging roads to city streets and bike paths.

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To date, more than 15,500 kilometres, or about 70 per cent of the proposed 22,000-kilometre route, have been completed. Organizers hope to finish the rest by 2017, the 150th year after Confederation.

Funding for the project has come from government, businesses and donors.

As the network has developed, some people have committed to travelling the breadth of the country, tackling stretches of the trail for weeks or months at a time, year after year.

Along the way, there were growing pains, such as incomplete stretches of trail and maps that didn't seem to correspond to what was on the ground.

Mindful of such shortcomings, the Manitoba Recreational Trail Association - which oversees the Trans Canada Trail in Manitoba, working with 18 regional trail associations and more than 100 volunteers - hired a trail rider this year to do an audit.

Kevin Klimczak, 26, spent about six weeks cycling more than 1,300 kilometres west to east across the province - taking photos, logging data in his GPS and poring over a map that had not been updated since 2005.

It was a wet summer in Manitoba. The first day of his trip, Mr. Klimczak came across a section of the trail between two lakes that had been flooded. He slogged through it, water up to his knees and carrying his bike.

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On most nights of his expedition, he was able to find a hotel room. When he couldn't, he set up a tent. He saw deer every day, at least one bear and was chased by a pack of stray dogs. Many days, he didn't see another human being on the trail.

With the physical part of his audit complete, he's now writing a report, part of a work-study term for his studies in recreational management at the University of Manitoba. His report will include information about foot bridges that need repair and other gaps in the network.

Despite its gaps, bumps and ruts, and even the occasional fence, the trail is a valuable national asset, Mr. Klimczak said.

"As an initiative to promote physical activity, it's great," he said on Thursday, about a week after completing his audit. "The connections between the small towns, like in western Manitoba, may just be a gravel road. But the good thing is, the towns have developed a trail close to town. And they're able to promote physical activity and just getting out, because they're really great walking trails."

And as a way to promote Canada's landscape, wildlife and natural beauty, it's unparalleled, he said.

"It's kind of difficult to see it from a vehicle when you're going 100 kilometres an hour and you're only stopping to gas up here and there," Mr. Klimczak said. "On a bike, or horseback riding or hiking, you really see a lot more."

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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