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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Ontario Trails Council - national trails program looking for coordinator, trails an election item in Ontario

Ontario Trails asks Leaders and Candidates to Respond

As we head into the Ontario Provincial election we are often asked by our membership to make sure trail issues are valued by candidates. This year we crafted 9 questions that you may use with your own candidates.
OUTDOORS - There are over 80,000 km of trails in Ontario in 430 communities, these communities may not have an arena, a pool, a library or a church, but they have a trail. If elected, what types of improvements would your government continue to make in the outdoor development sector?
• ACTIVE LIVING - Active living is an issue, in both the health benefits from activity and the negative effects of inactivity. Ontario has over 2600 useable active living trails. How would you and your government work with the Ontario Trails Council to promote trail use?
• ACTIVE TRANSPORTATION - Ontario has gone to great lengths to develop the GTA Greenbelt, UNESCO Biospheres, the CyclingON Strategy, promote transportation alternatives through funding of increased GO and other mass transportation supports. Would you and your government work with the Ontario Trails Council to develop a layer of inter-connected trails to rails, trails to bus, trails to trains as advocated by individual trail uses, at the provincial level so that all Ontarians would value know of this inter-connectivity?
• PROVINCIAL MATCHING FUNDING - Ontario Trails Council Membership is made up of land management groups th
at work with volunteer groups to make trails, access to funds for trail development is sometimes difficult and programs often change. The Ontario Trails Council did this in 2009-10, and will again in 2014-16 with the federal announcement of funds in the last budget for the National Trails Coalition. Would your government create a dedicated trail infrastructure development fund that could be managed by voluntary sector leaders?
• POLICY COORDINATION - Since 2005 Ontario has had an Ontario Trails Strategy. With this came a planning process called the Ontario Trails Coordinating Committee. This partnership won the Province's highest award for intergovernmental cooperation "The Amethyst Award" and developments, these developments include, trail safety by managing user conflict (motorized and nonmotorized harmony); a legislation review, and an award winning website for trails. If elected would you and your lead Ministry for trails make a commitment to ensure that the OTCC meets monthly to manage the affairs of trails?
• BUSINESS COSTS - There are issues with liability and operational costs for land owners, or groups that own or operate a trail. The costs of litigation and the process of litigation fail to bring case resolution since often cases are settled out of court. Would your government consider a fund to support the costs or trail litigation, (as they have in Nova Scotia), or the tort (such as the 2009 National Trails Act in the USA) – for trail groups, trail operators and land managers that promote the public good through trail activity?
• TRAIL JOBS - Nearly 1 million individuals use the Ontario Trail Website to plan or find a trail. We estimate trails to be a value between $2.5 - $4 billion dollars to the economy each year. We believe that this number is low. Many Regional Tourism Organizations promote outdoor activity, but have not defined the product range for trails. Would your government work with the OTC to ensure that each RTO promotes trails through a joint trail promotion program so that this trail economy could be expanded and developed throughout the whole of Ontario?
• PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT - Waterfront development is of value to all. The OTC works with communities in Northern Ontario, Georgian Bay, promoted the development of the Windsor Riverfront Trail, Carolinian Canada, Waterfront Trail Rides, and the Trans Canada Trail. Recently we offered comment to the Ontario Place Revitalization plans. There are 100's of significant destinations and experiences people can enjoy on trails in Ontario. How would your government work to ensure the OTMPC and other government department’s engaged Ontario Trail leaders in developing destination marketing with world-class trail tourism products as a result?
• WORLD CLASS EVENTS - The Pan-Am Games are coming to Ontario in 2015. The Ontario Trails Council has worked with Hamilton, McMaster, the Trans Canada Trail, and other communities such as Thunder Bay, and the Pan-Am Path in Toronto to make the games a reality on trails. There are many benefits to communities through world-class events. At the OTC we often hear from Centurion, X-terra, Tough Mudder etc. but there is not enough variety for these event planners to use Ontario. - Do you see an opportunity going forward to promote more trail events in more places through OTC/Ontario/Private sector partnerships?

As you receive local responses please send your answers to the OTC and we'll keep a record of who said what. We did receive one response thus far - from Premier Kathleen Wynne. See her response here -

Also at OTC we are party neutral, these questions have been provided to all candidates and the leaders of the 4 main political parties. 

We Value Our Members - Mr. Jack De Wit, OTC President

Dear Members - I often get questioned what are the benefits of an OTC Membership?  Your financial support enables us to assist trail groups and do many more things in support of trails.

Next week the Ontario Trails Council will be a full participant in meetings of the Canadian Trails Federation in Ottawa. Our involvement there has resulted in much work with the National Trails Coalition, and in the direct securing of funding that we used to make trails in Ontario.

For example because your membership supports our involvement at that level I am pleased to provide you with the Job Ads for the position of National Coordinator for the Project.

As you can see your financial support may not return directly to your community, but with it, by keeping the OTC viable, we are able to preserve or develop trails somewhere in Ontario.

Sincerely, Jack De Wit, President.