By ALLY HARRIS
Sept. 16, 2014
Prince Edward Island has become the second province to complete its section of the Trans Canada Trail.
This could not have been achieved without the donations of both time and money, said the chair of the Trans Canada Trail board of directors at a press conference Sept. 12.
Paul LaBarge said the project would not have been possible without the support of members of the community.
“Leadership without the proper support is just a good idea.”
The completion of the P.E.I. portion of the trail, known as the Confederation Trail, comes three years ahead of the target date of 2017.
The province’s trail is 444 km long, beginning in Tignish and ending in Elmira. It also connects to the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton and the ferry in Wood Islands.
With P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador having connected their portions of the trails, the trail is now 75 per cent connected across the country.
“(It’s) fitting the trail in PEI is finished three years before everybody else. You had a Confederation conference three years before they figured out they should put this whole country together, and now you’ve got your trail finished three years before the target date of 2017,” said LaBarge.
“You’ve set the bar and you’ve set it high and we just hope the rest of Canada can catch up.”
Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said, “We always like to say that on Prince Edward Island – we are slightly ahead of our time.”
Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee joked the province was a little slow to be only three years ahead of schedule.
“Charlottetown has a slogan and it says ‘great things happen here’ and the fact we’re only three years ahead of the rest of Canada somewhat surprises me, because usually we’re a lot further ahead than that.”
The completion of the trail is special because it is in 2014, said Shea.
“It’s fitting to note the idea of the Trans Canada Trail began as a legacy project for our 125th anniversary and I’m proud to see our province is able to achieve this accomplishment during this historic milestone year.”
The provincial government invested around $125 million in the project, with Premier Robert Ghiz describing it as one of the province’s biggest tourism assets.
“It connects dozens of Island communities and showcases the Island’s pristine natural beauty (and) will be a lasting legacy for generations to come.”
As well as promoting the Island, Shea noted the health benefits the trail will provide.
“I want to encourage all Islanders to get out and enjoy the beauty of our province while engaging in physical activity on our trails.”
Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, was on P.E.I. to explore the completed trail.
She is serving as the honourary Trans Canada Trail campaign chair and has spent the past few weeks travelling various parts of the trail.
“Each part of the trail is different, each part is unique. We love every kilometre and every kilometre showcases the Canadian outdoors in a special way,” she said.
Cathy Schaap, president of Island Trails, said completing the trail by 2017 would’ve been a pretty good achievement.
“We’ve been able to do better though, because of the very generous and timely financial donations of Mrs. (Nancy) Baron and the W. Garfield Weston Foundation.”
Baron, a trustee of the foundation, donated $1 million to the project, which in turn led to the provincial government adding $330,000.
Despite the contribution, Baron had actually never visited the Island before.
She expected to see milkmen delivering bottles of milk, and boys and girls travelling to church in “bonnets and uncomfortably stiff collars,” she said.
“I’m living in a world of 75 years ago, the world of Anne of Green Gables,” she joked.
Baron recounted her childhood love affair with the Green Gables books.
“I must have read that book 20 times and was entranced by it every time.”
The book ignited her love of Prince Edward Island, despite having never visited, she said.
“I know I’ll leave here with an up-to-date version of the story, but feel sure the modern one will still include warm hearts, the laughter and tears of life, the strong support of family and friends and the love of the land, this beautiful island.”
By ALLY HARRIS