With 28,000 kilometres of trails, a network of more than 500 local trail operators and more than 4,000 volunteer trail guardians, the Trans Canada Trail is an impressive undertaking. From rugged single track to gravel walkways, there’s something for every kind of adventurer on the longest multi-use trail in the world. I spoke to Trans Canada Trail director, Michael Goodyear, on how to avoid erosion through responsible recreation and ensure sustainable trails for generations.
Sharon Crowther: What does trail damage look like and how does it happen?
Michael Goodyear: “The main impacts we face in shoulder season are moisture-related: trail creep, vegetation loss, impact damage. These are usually the result of people dispersing mud and sediment by walking or riding on it when it’s wet, going around muddy areas and puddles to avoid getting wet and using the trail when the ground is soft, creating grooves or pockets in the trail.
“The impact down the road can be quite significant as well. The point of the trail is to allow people to enjoy the natural environment, the plants and the green spaces, with as little impact as possible. Vegetation damage can be very hard to reverse. Likewise, with impact, reversing the deterioration can be challenging. Three months later, when the soil has tightened up, those grooves or pockets are often still there.”
SC: Why are some trails more vulnerable than others?
MG: “Because some soils hold moisture longer or take longer to dry. There are lots of factors at play. Close to where I live, for example, the soil on the trail is very porous so you can use the trail almost immediately after rainfall. But in other sections, where the trail uses river valleys, for example, the soil holds more moisture, so those trails need more time to dry out.”
SC: How can trail users ensure they don’t damage the trails they use through spring?
MG: “Do your homework. Reach out to recreation groups or trail operator groups on social media and ask how the trails you want to use are running. Hiking, mountain biking [and] trail running clubs are all great resources. Choose your route and your activity carefully and stick to designated trails. If the trails are wet, don’t step, jump or ride around puddles and if in doubt, turn back.”
SC: What roles can users play in trail maintenance?
MG: “Donating to the Trans Canada Trail is a great way to support financially. We support trail development and distribute grants to hundreds of volunteer organizations across the country. If you’re looking to get your hands dirty, look for a provincial trail organization or a provincial user group. There’s lots of them out there and they always need helpers. But it’s not just about getting out with a chainsaw or weeding out invasive species, they also need help in governance, determining what’s next for them as an organization, writing funding applications. There’s a lot more to supporting trails and their preservation than being physically active in volunteering. There are roles for everyone.”
Facts about the Trans Canada Trail
- 2022 marked the 30th anniversary of the Trans Canada Trail
- 80 per cent of Canadians live within 30 minutes of a Trail section
- More than 15,000 communities are connected by the Trail
- 95 per cent of trail users in Canada say they use trails to boost their mental and physical health
- Canadians’ use of trails has increased almost 50 per cent since the onset of the pandemic
- The Trail crosses 32 Parks Canada administered places including Fundy National Park (New Brunswick), the Rideau Canal National Historic Site (Ontario), Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area (Ontario), Pukaskwa National Park (Ontario), Lachine Canal National Historic Site (Quebec) and Banff National Park (Alberta)
- In August 2021, filmmaker Dianne Whelan became the first person to complete the Trans Canada Trail by land and water, hiking, biking, snowshoeing and paddling the route, mostly solo, over the course of six years
- In November 2022, adventurer Melanie Vogel became the first woman to hike the coast-to-coast-to-coast route, reaching all three oceans; the Atlantic, the Arctic and the Pacific. Her five-year journey covered 20,000 kilometres
Kilometres of Trails by Province/Territory
New Brunswick: 900
Nova Scotia: 2,000
Newfoundland & Labrador: 1,300