Answering your Questions: Trails

Good day, friends!

I would like to share with you a question posed to me by a the Pinawa Friends of the Trans Canada Trail. The volunteer group has invited me to post this here so the public can better understand my position on this issue. You can read the question, and my response below.

These questions are posed on behalf of Pinawa Friends of the Trans Canada Trail.

What do you think are the benefits, economic and otherwise, of having the Great Trail in Pinawa, and how should Pinawa Council help to sustain this largely volunteer-supported asset? If you were the Council representative to the Pinawa Trails Committee, how would you ensure that (a) communication remained open between the trail volunteers and council, and (b) trail use is compatible with the purpose of a given trail?

Respectfully submitted,

P. T.

Secretary, Pinawa Friends of the Trans Canada Trail

My son and my cousin hiking in Lynn Canyon, BC

Good day, friend.

Thank you for writing to me about an issue that is very dear to my heart.

Allow me to introduce myself. I was born here in Manitoba and my parents started me camping before my first birthday. When I was little I explored the sand dunes of Spruce Woods and some of the little trails in the Whiteshell and other Provincial Parks. My school was just outside Bird’s Hill Park and we would regularily get field trips there to ride bikes on the Chickadee trail and the beach loop. My family had made a quarter mile long trail running through the woods from my house to my aunties place and on to my grandparent’s house, which my brothers and I would use to go visit them.

As I got older, my love of trails did not diminish. My friends and I planned canoe trips and hiking trips in the Whiteshell and in Nopaming. I’ve hiked the trails around Jasper the few occasions I’ve had the luck of getting a train layover in the park. I’ve hiked the Baden Powel Trail in Vancouver and done the Grouse Grind. I’ve cycled the entire waterfront of Toronto and circumnavigated the Stanley Park Seawalk I can’t even tell you how many times. Walking or cycling is my preferred method of visiting a place. My dream vacation is to go to Québec again with my family and our bikes to cycle la Route Verte, and also the Confederation Trail in Prince Edward Island. Other top picks are Acadia National Park in New England because of its beautiful sea side carriage trails.

So I can tell you that yes, trails can drive economic activity. They are tourist attractions in an of themselves, and people will travel in order to hike them. As I’m sure you can attest, members of the Pinawa trails groups also enjoy travelling to other locales for eco-touristic activities such as hiking, birding, and biking as well. According to studies done on the economic impact of community trails and the economy:

  • A 2018 study of Helena, Montana’s trail impact revealed a $4.3 million annual impact for the town of 31,000 residents.
  • Outdoor recreation now outpaces the oil and gas industry in economic impact. The outdoor recreation industry is built on trails, making trails an important economic driver.
  • Properties near trails increase in value.
  • Trails both drive tourism, and make communities a more desirable place to live.
  • Trails create jobs. Pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure projects create 8–12 jobs per $1 million of spending. Road infrastructure projects create 7 jobs per $1 million of expenditures (Garrett-Peltier, 2011).
Les Voyageurs de Manigatogan

There are other benefits to trails as well, and I have mentioned these in some of my other posts such as Healthy Seniors, and Prosperity – Sustainability – Wellness. One benefit which I think is often understated is health, both physical and mental. According to americantrails.org

  • For every 1 dollar spent in trails, there is a 3 dollar savings in healthcare costs.
  • More overall physical activity is measured in communities after trails are built.
  • Cardiovascular benefits are seen across all trail user types. This means healthier hearts, and a reduction in preventable disease, for trail users.
  • Commuting by foot or bike gains popularity when trails go into a community. This both reduces traffic and creates a healthier more physically active community.

Trails are a critical piece of urban infrastructure, and they should be allocated resources necessary to to maintain safe and positive access for all.

How do we accomplish this?

I have reached out to several members of the Trails organizations already. I’ve been in talks with the PCDC and with our Economic Development Officer Ben Shantz, and I have been clear and consistent in my stance. The trails and public open spaces of Pinawa provide a direct benefit to the tourism and accommodation industry. However, they are maintained by volunteers, public servants, and tax dollars. I believe that a critical element of the much needed tourism plan (2021) for Pinawa must include a streamlined system of revenue capture that fairly reflects the increased use of these public assets. There are a number of different ways this could be achieved, such as charging for parking, accommodation tax, or point-of-sale levy on tourist activities, or others; any of these will have to be studied in depth before implementation to ensure the best fit for Pinawa. To be clear, we welcome ethical businesses and their customers, to enjoy pleasant recreation in the public areas of our community environment. Simply put, more users requires more resources. However, more resources can open more opportunity! With this in mind, the revenue generated from this system would then be earmarked to a great extent into financial support and improvements for public amenities such as parks and trails.

This is a critical time my friends. The post pandemic economy will bring unique investment opportunities to communities. Pinawa is still trying to figure out how tourism works, and right now, it’s not going as well as I would have hoped. There is an emphasis on development and growth from tourism businesses in town, but first, we as Pinawanians need to decide what sort of community we want to promote. My vision is inspired in education and ecology, Fort Whyte Alive and Oak Hammock Marsh. As councillor, I will fight to protect and enhance harmony of humans, science, and nature. The decisions that will be made this year will set the course for Pinawa for years to come. We need a strong voice at the table that sees protection of trails, parks, natural areas, and public access as keys to our future!

Recently, I was on a phone call with a citizen, who seemed resigned that Pinawa was “changing” but seemed to accept this with a shrug saying “that’s what the young people want, I suppose”. I disagreed with her on that. I told her that people love Pinawa for what it is, and for what it could become. With new eyes, we see the potential in the maturation of our community. The reason I am here writing to you today is because of the respect I have for the work that people like yourself put in before! I recognize this. I’ve heard many times from our great volunteers that they’re “getting older” (which tends to happen to us all, oddly enough). It’s true, we need more engagement from the younger generation. That’s what I am doing in this campaign. I can tell you that based on the traffic to my site, and the response that I have received from people of all walks and ages in town, there is energy here. And I intend to be a leader that brings us together as a people, to accomplish great things. When I cross the suspension bridge, ski the Red Trail, or walk the Ironwood I think of the vision of those before me, and that inspires me to be the change that I want to see in my community.

My wheels near the TCT in North Whiteshell

You ask if I were chair of the Trails committee (a portfolio I would welcome) how would I ensure communication between myself and the rest of the committee. First I would say, consider the words in this letter and my other pages! I plan to continue to host this site and be open about my work as councillor. I’ve received a number of calls from Trails members, and we had some long and engaging conversations, just ask your friends. When it comes to committee work, I served as co-chair of Via Rail’s On-train Health and Safety Committee for the Western Region, representing hundreds of on train personnel, over thousands of kilometres of track, from Toronto to Vancouver to Churchill. While co-chair our committee was evaluated as one of the tops in terms of performance. I run a clean ship (or train).

As a member of the Whiteshell Ski Club, I understand that there are issues with multi-use trails. I’m not going to tell you I have all the answers to that, because none of us do. But I do believe that there is a solution to be found. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s going to involve some compromise by all parties, there’s no way around that. We need to remember that the intention of the Great Trail is to be inclusive and accessible to all, and it is our job to find a solution to better facilitate the shared use and enjoyment of this amazing public asset. I am ready and willing to step up to the plate to facilitate this conversation.

I believe that parks and trails add a tremendous good to the community. As councillor, I intend to work to develop a comprehensive park and trail strategy for Pinawa. A plan that recognizes, in ink, the importance of these invaluable assets, and secures and sustains our natural environment for future generations to come. Investing in our parks, greenbelts, and trails is an investment in the health of the economy, it is an investment into the health of the people, an investment in the future that we can begin together, today.

On May 5th, Vote for a New Voice for Pinawa.

Thank you for your questions.

Sincerely,

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