It also encourages Canadians to get outside and get active.
“First there was a railway, then there was a highway, but this connects us, including the North, from coast to coast to coast in a way that we can explore and connect this country,” said Pringle, the former CTV broadcaster best-known as the co-host of the network’s flagship morning program Canada A.M.
The co-chairwoman of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, Pringle said Friday’s announcement of a $3-million investment – a million dollars each from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the TD Bank Group and the government of Canada – will go a long way to ensuring the effort reaches completion by 2017, the country’s 150th anniversary.
These particular funds will be used to complete the Northern Ontario portion of the trail, a collection of 432 trails spread across the country, between Thunder Bay and North Bay.
It includes a 207-kilometre cycling route from Sudbury to North Bay, a 370-kilometre cycling route from Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie and enhancements to the Lake Superior West Trail, a 989-kilometre paddling route from Sault Ste. Marie to Thunder Bay, adding 15 access points with amenities for paddlers.
“It gets infused all along the routes in Nothwestern Ontario and Northern Ontario and just develops the trails,” Pringle said.
“And also, as you can see, there’s a component to develop Aboriginal tourism as well, which will be wonderful.”
On hand for Friday’s announcement was Laureen Harper, wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the honourary campaign chairwoman for the Trans Canada Trail Foundation.
Harper paddled into Fort William Historical Park alongside other dignitaries to mark the occasion, and though she did not make herself available for interviews, told the gathered crowd she has long had a love of the outdoors and it’s her dream to give Canadians more access to it.
“What a birthday present, what a way to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada’s confederation. Just as Sir John A. Macdonald dreamed of connecting Canada by a ribbon of steel, at the Trans Canada Trail we dream of connecting Canada by trail and routes for walkers, hikers, cyclists and also paddlers as we saw out there today,” Harper said.
Trans Canada Trail chairman Paul Labarge said Canadians have to go back to go forward. Moving at faster and faster speeds across the land is convenient, but along the way those who live here and those who visit have lost a little of the fabric of the nation.
“You stay inside the bubble of your car or your train car, or whatever it may be. By going back to human speed, you end up understanding all the component parts that make up Canada and how wonderful it is,” Labarge said.
Federal Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford, said the trail is an important part of Canada’s future, a great way to connect communities – especially in more remote sections of the country like Northern Ontario.
The historic nature of the trail in this region is key too, he said. It’s accessible too.
“As you heard today, most Canadians live within 30 minutes of the Trans Canada Trail,” Rickford said, noting it falls in line with his government’s commitment to a healthier country.
When completed, the trail will stretch more than 24,000 kilometres.