spreading terrible ‘’untruths’’ about the Trans Canada Trail?
Edmonton, AB - Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Revised May 18, 2017
In late March, I sent a copy of my petition – calling on the federal government to set minimum safety standards for the Trans Canada Trail – to Deborah Apps, president and CEO, Trans Canada Trail organisation, and asked her for comments and suggestions.
And, in a gesture of my continuing goodwill, I stated: ‘’As I prepare the fifth and final year of my Ride the Trail for Elizabeth campaign, my hope is that we can make common cause in the promotion of a national trail that is safe and accessible for hikers and cyclists.’’
In mid-April, I published an article in the May issue of Alberta Views magazine titled “Shattered Dream: The Trans Canada Trail has become a dangerous hoax.’’ To support my conclusion that the trail was now a motorised roadway, I cited the same figures used in the petition’s preamble: 8,500 km of roadway and highway, 5,000 km of quadway, 7,000 km of waterway, and 3,500 km of greenway.
Source: Alberta Views, May 2017, p. 40.
On Thursday, April 20, I gave a recorded interview to Jim Brown, host of the CBC’s national news program ‘’The 180’’ and, repeating the same statistics, described the Trans Canada Trail as a dangerous roadway. The program’s producer, Matthew Lazin-Ryder, told me that the interview would be broadcast in a week or two, depending upon the availability of a Trans Canada Trail spokesperson.
The next day, however, he called me to say that Trans Canada Trail officials were denying everything in my interview – even the motivations for establishing the trail. Did I have any evidence to support my statements?
‘’I’m a meticulous researcher,’’ I replied. ‘’I don’t make unsupported claims.’’ And I immediately sent him published declarations made in 1989 and 1994 by Bill Pratt, the founding president of the Trans Canada Trail.
He replied shortly afterwards: ‘’That is perfect, thank you very much Edmund. Pretty clear cut.’’
Oddly, my interview was broadcast without delay, that same weekend. Trans Canada Trail officials, apparently, had declined to participate.
But three days later, Paul LaBarge, chair of the Trans Canada Trail’s Board of Directors, sent me an angry letter accusing me of ‘’misstating the facts.” ‘’Many of the statements that you claim as facts,’’ he complained, ‘’are simply untrue.” Further, ‘’what you are doing is slandering and libelling some very dedicated, honest and selfless volunteers.’’
First, as I have stated numerous times, in both public and private, I have enormous admiration for those volunteers who have struggled against huge obstacles in their efforts to build a national trail that is safe and accessible. I have been privileged to meet many hundreds of dedicated trail-builders; they have confided their fears and frustrations, and encouraged me to continue working for a non-motorised greenway.
Second, my statements of fact regarding the Trans Canada Trail are based on a careful and judicious examination of published information released by TCT officials. Here are my principal sources.
In 2016, after interviewing Valerie Pringle, co-chair of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, the Toronto Star reported: “Trail organizers anticipate that when connected, 35 per cent of the trail will be on roadways, of which 2,500 kilometres will include provincial highways.” (Note: 35% x 24,000 = 8,400 km)
In 2000, after interviews with John Bellini, executive director, Trans Canada Trail organisation, and other TCT officials, Canadian Geographic magazine revealed that “nearly 30 percent of the 16,200-kilometre trail’’ would be opened to motorized all-terrain vehicles. (Note: 30% x 16,200 = 4,860 km)
In 2013, when I complained to Deborah Apps, president and CEO, Trans Canada Trail organisation, about heavy ATV traffic on the trail, she explained that this had been ‘’grandfathered’’ by previous agreements and could not be altered. But she also assured me that ATV use would not be expanded.
Nevertheless, in 2014, the BC government announced that it had been unable to police illegal ATV use on its rail trails and was now opening 2,000 km of trail (including 600 km of Trans Canada Trail) to motorised off-road vehicles.
Although, less than a year earlier, the Trans Canada Trail organisation had variously stated that 5,000 km and 6,200 km of ‘’trail’’ was in lakes and rivers, Deborah Apps, president and CEO, TCT organisation, told Radio-Canada International, on January 17, 2017, that intrepid adventurer Dianne Whelan would be ‘’the first person to paddle the Great Trail’s 7,000 kilometres of waterway.” Subsequent statements reiterated this figure.
All the above figures, totalling 20,260 kilometres, must be considered approximate. Moreover, my own on-site observations, while cycling the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria BC to Charlottetown PE suggest that they seriously underestimate the motorised sections.
To give only one example, many so-called ‘’greenway’’ trails in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are no more than water-filled road-side drainage ditches and all users – except snowmobiles – must travel on the roadway.
Accordingly, it is prudent, after rounding, to estimate a total of 20,500 km. In a fully-connected trail of 24,000 km, this leaves only 3,500 km of greenway.
In his letter, Mr LaBarge contends that pathways with ‘’shared ATV use’’ are still greenways. This flies in the face of widely-accepted usage. The European Greenways Association, for example, defines greenways as "routes reserved exclusively for non-motorised journeys.’’
If my figures are ‘’untruthful,’’ as Mr LaBarge now insists, then the Trans Canada Trail organisation must bear the brunt of the responsibility.