On the basis of a recent National Léger Survey, supporters of the Trans Canada Trail are calling on federal election candidates to support a campaign to ensure protection of trails for future generations.
According to the survey commissioned by Trans Canada Trail (TCT), 85 per cent of Canadians have been exploring trails since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is the latest in a series of surveys to show that trail use is up across Canada as Canadians have, during the pandemic, embraced outdoor recreation opportunities that enhance their physical and mental health, TCT reports.
TCT says this survey found COVID-19 has changed the way Canadians use trails, with 40 per cent of Canadians increasing their trail usage since 2020, and survey results indicate trails will maintain their place in Canadians’ routine post pandemic. The majority of Canadians (72 per cent) say they will continue to use trails post pandemic, with a quarter (25 per cent) intending to use them more often. Among those who identify as trail users, those numbers increase to 96 per cent planning to use trails once the pandemic is behind us, with 34 per cent expecting to use them more often than they currently do.
“Canadians’ increased trail use during the pandemic has catalyzed our decision to launch the #ISupportTCT campaign, which calls on federal candidates to support the Trans Canada Trail, as well as our efforts to renew our annual federal funding by signing the #ISupportTCT pledge. We are buoyed by the response and the messages of support we’ve received – from Canadians as well as federal candidates – which underscore the importance of our federal funding, and the sustainability of the Trail,” says Eleanor McMahon, president and CEO, Trans Canada Trail.
According to the Léger survey, 77 per cent of Canadians feel it is very important for governments (federal, provincial/territorial, municipal) to invest in the development and maintenance of recreational trails.
“Our studies have shown that trails make an important contribution to our economy – and these polling results underscore the potential for trails to continue to do so, with 52 per cent of Canadians planning to include trails in their next vacation plans,” says McMahon.
“Trails attract tourists and they also connect visitors to local businesses and attractions, which enhances local economies. They also enrich our understanding of Canada’s history, and in particular our understanding of the importance of relationships with Indigenous communities.”
According to the survey, trails have emerged as a vital tool for Canada’s economic recovery with 72 per cent of Canadians using trails to explore their communities. And while the pandemic has increased levels of stress and taken a toll on mental health, trails have been a place of respite. The Léger survey found that 94 per cent of Canadians frequently use trails to enjoy a safe outdoor experience and the fresh air.
The Léger survey results also show:
• 89 per cent of Canadians agree trails lower emissions and enhance air quality;
• 80 per cent of Canadians agree trails decrease congestion; and
• 90 per cent of Canadians agree trails make local communities healthier.
McMahon notes, “As the stewards of the longest trail system in the world, we are proud of the work we do, but we can’t do it without the vital yearly support that we receive from the federal government. The work that we do, in partnership with local trail organizations, is critical to protecting our natural environment for generations to come, and makes a robust contribution to our economy and local job creation through infrastructure investments and tourism.
“These survey results reinforce the importance of continuing to invest in the Trans Canada Trail given its numerous benefits.”