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The Neverending job of the Trans-Canada Trail

The Trans-Canada Trail has been a gift to runners.

In 1949, when Parliament passed the Trans-Canada Highway Act, formally approving the construction of what would become a 7821 km artery connecting Vancouver to St. John’s, it also marked the twilight of rail and the dawn of the automobile. If anything the Trans-Canada Trail project that began in 1992 is even more ambitious and in a twist of historical irony, the same rail lines that became neglected and were later abandoned have been, in many places, repurposed by a movement that hopes to connect the country by 2017.

Al MacPherson has been involved with the Trans-Canada trail since 1992 and, since his retirement from Fleming College has taken on the role of Chair of Trans-Canada Trail Ontario, a non-profit organization. Since the early 90s a large part of his focus has been on a 44K section that bisects Lindsay and Omemee en route to Peterborough.

MacPherson is hopeful that in the coming months more runners will take advantage of what has become his life’s work.

“With gentle grading, fine limestone gravel, and regular maintenance; the Trans-Canada trail offers an ideal setting for runners who want to get away from the road.”

Building and maintaining a trail is neither cheap nor straightforward. The Trans-Canada trail often crosses through private property requiring permission from the landowner and Crown land entails a lease from the provincial government.


MacPherson’s organization, despite the plethora of volunteer labour, is also required to raise $10,000 per year to fund materials and liability insurance. Funding is provided largely by donation with the bulk of support generated from the annual Adventure Trail Festival. However, finding money is an on-going challenge and without financial assistance from the Kawartha Lakes municipal government, a challenge with no foreseeable end in sight.

This is fine with MacPherson.

“Really, it’s about national pride. This is a legacy that will be around for a long time. If you can’t get excited about this trail, how can you really be Canadian?”

Canada’s possesses a uniquely formidable geography, climate and expanse; hemmed in by oceans on three sides, cut by jagged mountains in the west, muskeg in the north and an expanse of prairie in the middle, it’s a country that only a endurance athlete could truly appreciate. Nationally the trail is just under 75 per cent complete and MacPherson is confident that it will be finished on time.

“When it’s done, it will be the longest trail in the world.”