From the border to the beach

June 11, 2009

Attention Manitobans: lace up your boots, there’s a new challenge afoot.

The Manitoba Recreational Trails Association announced Wednesday evening its plan to launch Border to Beaches, a 370-kilometre trail stretching from the Ontario border to Grand Beach Provincial Park.

MRTA president Ruth Marr said the association is fortunate to have received help from both the provincial and federal governments. The cost of constructing the trail will be split three ways, with both levels of the government and the association pitching in $1.45 million apiece.

While the association needs up to $500,000 more to reach its fundraising goals, Marr is still eager to get the project started.

“Parts of the trail already exist, and bits and pieces just need to be completed,” she said.

The trail will start at two separate points: the Travel Manitoba Explore Centre at West Hawk Lake, and High Lake, a 2.5-kilometre walk east of Falcon Lake.

From there, the trail will snake its way north alongside the Winnipeg River throughout eastern Manitoba, connecting travellers with the Whiteshell Provincial Park and other towns and rural areas like Pinawa, Lac du Bonnet and Pine Falls.

Marr said the objective of the project was to create a quality experience for tourists visiting the area. The trail will be a predominantly separate path, avoiding highways and other higher-traffic routes.

“We want it to be in the bush, but also be in proximity,” Marr said. “We’re looking for the balance between being close to services and facilities, but still have the feel of being in the Manitoban outdoors.”

Border to Beaches will eventually become part of the Trans Canada Trail—a rugged, natural version of a highway for those who like to hike, cycle, snowmobile and horseback ride across the wildnerness.

Valerie Pringle, chairwoman of the Trans Canada Trail, said the new portion through eastern Manitoba will help link the history, geography and nature of Canada.

“First it was the railway, then it was the highway, and now it’s the Trans Canada Trail,” Pringle said.

Pringle called the national trail a “green version of a railway,” and said the Border to Beaches portion will be the “jewel” of the Trans Canada Trail, comparing it to the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern U.S.

“It’s incredibly ambitious,” Pringle said. “It’s a huge chunk that will help link up the country.”

Work on the Trans Canada Trail started in 1992. The idea was born in an effort to join local trails across the country and link communities in the process, Pringle said.

Seventeen years later, the trail spreads almost 17,000 kilometres from coast to coast—from St. John’s, N.L., to Victoria, B.C., and reaches all the way up north to the Arctic Ocean, at the base of the Mackenzie River. Pieces of the trail have also started up in Nunavut.

There is at least 4,000 kilometres more to build, which is expected to be completed by 2017 to mark Canada’s 150th birthday, Pringle said.

When work on Border to Beaches is fully finished, the Manitoba portion of the Trans Canada Trail will be 90 per cent complete, Marr said.

But Marr said that shouldn’t stop eager outdoor fanatics from exploring parts of the trail this summer that already exist. Marr couldn’t say when the full trail will be completed, but said it must be built by 2015.

Marr and her team of 50 workers and volunteers will help bring the trail to final fruition.

“Travellers already have a wonderful experience, and now they’ll have many more,” Marr said.

Janice Lukes, executive director of the Winnipeg Trails Association, is excited about the addition of new trails in the province and can’t wait to trek them.

“(The area) is a showcase part of Manitoba, so why not encourage people to get out and experience it?” she said.

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