Regina, SK - Thursday, July 31, 2014
Co-Chair, Trans Canada Trail Foundation
On March 12, 2014, in a presentation to the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, you urged municipal leaders to help complete the Trans Canada Trail: “No one knows better than the people of Saskatchewan how important the land is to building our country and shaping our identity. We ask you to call upon that pioneering community spirit and help us connect the Trail across Saskatchewan and complete a continuous national trail that links Canadians from coast to coast to coast for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.”
In an interview with the Western Producer, you also stated: “I really do believe that the rural municipalities will respond with the community spirit that is typical of Saskatchewan and say, ‘yeah, we want to be there.’ ”
While I have the greatest admiration for your longstanding dedication to the Trans Canada Trail, I believe that your efforts would be more successful if directed, not at the municipalities, but at the provincial government, and more specifically, at the premier, Brad Wall.
The Trans Canada Trail – like its glorious predecessors, the transcontinental railway and the Trans-Canada highway – is a national project, not a local matter. Rural municipalities have neither the constitutional authority nor the financial resources nor the planning capacity to build a trail – or any other transportation corridor – that stretches across the province, and ultimately, across the country.
When I visited Edam, Saskatchewan, earlier this month, a municipal councillor told me that the Trans Canada Trail Foundation had allocated $2.5 million for trail construction on the abandoned CN rail line that runs 135 km from Frenchman Butte to Prince. He also explained, however, that the municipality’s attempts to negotiate with CN have been completely stymied; for more than six years, CN has refused to reply to its phone messages and emails.
If the premier of Saskatchewan intervened, I am sure that CN would respond. In the meantime, in tragicomic solemnity, both Edam and Meota feature TCT pavilions listing their many generous donors, and post signs advertising the Trans Canada Trail as their sole tourist attraction. But neither community possesses even one kilometre of trail.
The provincial government’s indifference to the Trans Canada Trail is particularly evident in its parks. The 60-km section that runs through Danielson and Douglas provincial parks is simply a rough channel mowed through deep grass. Perhaps more disconcerting, the 5-km section in Buffalo Pound provincial park, once a solid and well-constructed dyke trail, featuring TCT nature signs, has fallen into disrepair through lack of maintenance. It is overgrown and unused.
As I travel the Trans Canada Trail in Saskatchewan, I am appalled to discover that it is composed largely of rural roads, many with 80 km/hr speed limits. In my view, this is a complete betrayal of the ideals that inspired our “New National Dream.” My disheartening expectation is that, on July 1, 2017, the lights you see on the TCT will come from motorised vehicles.
I strongly encourage you to focus your lobbying efforts and persuasive abilities on the premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall. He has the power to make or break the province’s Trans Canada Trail.
Edmund A. Aunger
PS. Please visit www.ridethetrail.ca to learn about my recent efforts to promote the Trans Canada Trail.
Valerie Pringle, co-chair, TCT Foundation, and Brad Wall, premier of Saskatchewan.