The Trans Canada Trail is the world's longest network of recreational trails. When fully connected, the Trail will stretch 23,000 kilometres (14,000 mi) from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic oceans. More than 16,800 kilometres (10,400 mi) of trail are currently usable, making it approximately 73% complete in 2012. Two hundred forty gaps totaling 6,200 kilometres (3,900 mi) must be bridged in order to achieve a fully connected trail. The Trans Canada Trail has given itself until its 25th anniversary and Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017 to reach this objective.
The creation of the Trail was borne of Canada's 125th anniversary celebrations in 1992. It has its counterparts in such other greenway routes as the 12 EuroVelo routes, the UK's National Cycle Network, and the USA's East Coast Greenway.
To date it has been funded largely by Canadian federal and provincial governments, with significant contributions from corporate and individual donors. The first province to have completed its designated section of the trail was Prince Edward Island (see Confederation Trail).
The network of the Trans Canada Trail is made up of more than 400 community trails. Each trail section is developed, owned and managed locally by trail groups, conservation authorities and by municipal, provincial and federal governments, for instance in parks such as Gatineau Park or along existing trails such as the Rideau Trail and Voyageur Hiking Trail. The Trans Canada Trail supports and is made up of greenways.
Moreover, considerable parts of the Trail are repurposed defunct rail lines donated to provincial governments by CP and CN rail rebuilt as walking trails. As such, much of the Trans Canada Trail development emulated the successful Rails-to-Trails initiative in the United States, whereby these transportation corridors are "rail banked" as recreational trails, allowing conversion back to rail should future need arise. Other areas such as the large Kinsol Trestle on Vancouver Island need expensive renovations to make the development and continuation possible.
Thousands of Canadians, community partner organizations, corporations, local businesses and all levels of government are involved in developing and maintaining these trails. The Trans Canada Trail does not own or operate any trail. As an ensemble, the Trans Canada Trail might be one of the largest volunteer projects ever undertaken in Canada.
The main section runs along the southern areas of Canada connecting most of Canada's major cities and most populous areas. There is also a long northern arm which runs through Alberta to Edmonton and then up through northern British Columbia to Yukon.
The Trail is multi-use and depending on the section may allow hikers, bicyclists, horseback riders, cross country skiers and snowmobilers. In theory, the Trail is equipped with regularly spaced pavilions that provide shelter as well as fresh water to travellers, but this varies widely from section to section, and particularly from province to province.
"Mile Zero" of the Trail is located outside the Railway Coastal Museum in St. John's, Newfoundland.
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