Newfoundland has over 29,000 kilometres of coastline and almost 300 trails to explore. Some of those kilometres are currently being threatened by a plan to build a penitentiary in the White Hills trail network. The provincial government has decided to build the site near RCMP headquarters by 2024. Residents of St. John’s, Nfld. are coming together in their concern and plan to protect the precious area vital for a variety of outdoor adventurers.
Avid trail runner and athlete Katie Wadden of NL Trail Running organizes weekly trail runs in the White Hills area. She says formally recognizing the trail system in the area is one step in protecting it. Wadden and Lachlan Roe-Bose of the Avalon Mountain Bike Association comprise some of the individuals rallying together to speak with the government Minister Andrew Parsons about their concerns. Although there is a need for a new correctional facility, the group feels as though this unique green space ought to be protected.
Wadden and passionate trail users are advocating as a newly formed White Hills non-profit organization, hoping to work alongside the government to ensure the trails that are lost can be rebuilt in remaining green space. “The extensive network of trails in the area of the White Hills that are actively being used by members of our community – for hiking, biking, running, bird watching, and dog walking. Currently, there are over 15K of beautiful, wilderness trails that overlook the city of St. John’s and the Atlantic Ocean. Many people do not realize, but the White Hills area has a long history of recreational use.” Says Wadden.
“From the 1930s to the 1970s the Newfoundland Hiking Club built their clubhouse in the White Hills, and hiked and maintained these trails for decades. Then two decades ago, the mountain biking community rediscovered these trails and further built and maintained them. In present day, these trails are now considered multi-use trails, are used all year round, by hundreds or more outdoor enthusiasts, families, running clubs, and biking groups. Thousands, upon thousands of hours of sweat equity, for generations and generations, have been put into building and maintaining these trails for the use of our community.” Wadden explains.