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[at-l] Re: Extending the AT

I have spent the last few minutes reading the postings over the past few
days regarding the extension of the AT. There was one point made early on
that has (as far as I can see) elicited little comment, but deserves
serious thought:
>the path that the trail is taking is being dictated by
>local politics
As one who has been involved in some of the initial development of the
TransCanada Trail, which will end up some 9,000 km long, this has to be the
major concern with any extension of the AT. Local politicians are crawling
all over themselves to have the TCT diverted through their towns. They'll
*kill* to get the cachet of the AT.
My question to them is always why the trail should go through their town or
county, from the point of view of the trail user. Their interest begins and
ends with the economic impact of the trail on their locality. They don't
care *at all* about trails, about what the trail will be in the end, about
what trails are, in essence, for. Someone mentioned the original vision of
the AT as a key. The local politicians have no vision of a trail ethos at
Two clear examples which should be considered by all those who want to make
a major change to the AT, thus exposing it to the whims of current
1. In Saskatchewan, the province was not satisfied with one TCT crossing
between Manitoba and Alberta (thus choosing between the north and the south
parts of the province). There is a parallel in the TransCanada Highway,
which winds all over the country like a braided stream. Currently, the TCT
will enter Saskatchewan on the east, continue over the basically
featureless prairie for a couple of hundred kilometres, then *split* into a
northern and southern branch. The southern branch will meet the Alberta TCT
at the border. The northern one will . . . stop dead, but it will still be
officially part of the TCT.
2. The TCT is being promoted with glossy brochures showing hikers on
mountain trails, but that's not even 10 per cent of the picture. Many
sections of the trail are to be "open" to forms of motorized
transportation, such as snowmobiles and, perhaps, ATVs of some kind. This
was done to bring the ATV and snowmobile groups aboard, not to mention the
cross-country skiing groups, the horse groups, the cycling groups, the
pogo-stick long-distance groups (just kidding about the last one), etc. ad
nauseam. The integrity of a "trail" has been sacrificed by the politicians
to get the greatest amount of use out of it, and the greatest amount of
voting support. Parts, though, promise to be some sort of freeway, with
only cars and motorcycles excluded.
In Canada, which the one section of the trail extension enters,
volunteerism is much less important to any trail development than it is in
the States. The trail will be built and, likely, maintained by some form of
parks official. Tax dollars will be the most important thing about the
trail from the beginning to the end. Thus broad voting appeal is even more
All that said, I support a continent-wide web of trails. As with highways,
some will have special names, a special feeling. None will be as special as
the AT. All, though, will be worthwhile.
But: Ask why politicians want to extend the AT. Is it because of the good
they can do for the AT, or the good it can do for them?
R J Hayes

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