Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

New Partnership Makes World's Longest Hiking Trail More Accessible

New Partnership Makes World's Longest Hiking Trail More Accessible
Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day on Capital Pathway in Ottawa, Ontario with Camille Bérubé. Daniel Baylis

The Great Trail in Canada is recognized as the world's longest recreational trail for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. Created by the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) and various partners, The Great Trail consists of a series of smaller, interconnected routes that stretch from St. John's to Vancouver and even into the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It took nearly 25 years to connect the 27,000 kilometers of greenway in ways that were safe and accessible to hikers. Now, thanks to a new partnership with the Canadian Paralympic Committee and AccessNow, the TCT is increasing accessibility throughout The Great Trail for people with disabilities.

Since The Great Trail opened in 2017, the TCT has worked hard to provide as much information about the greenway to Canadians across the country. By working with the individual parks and trail groups that make up The Great Trail, they have created an experience that outdoorsmen from all over Canada can enjoy. However, until recently, little information was given for accessibility to the individual trails. This is why the partnership with AccessNow is crucial.

AccessNow is a Canadian social enterprise that allows individuals to pin areas on a worldwide map that are accessible or that need accessibility improvements. By using the AccessNow map on The Great Trail, the TCT hopes to help Canadians can find barrier-free segments of the trail as well as alert the organization to areas that still have barriers. This measure aims to provide a better overall experience for hikers, bikers, and skiers visiting the Great Trail.

The AccessNow mapping initiative began with para-athlete volunteers from the Canadian Paralympic Committee. After the announcement that the 2020 Paralympics would be postponed to August of 2021, many para-athletes were eager to help in the project. The TCT's president and CEO Eleanor McMahon said, "With the Games postponed, (the athletes) had some time in their schedule — we were fortunate enough that they chose to spend some of their time helping us."

To McMahon and other leaders of the project, the partnership is about more than tracking access on the trail. It's about making as many voices heard, and ensuring that everyone can receive the physical and mental benefits of outdoor recreation. Maayan Ziv, founder & CEO of AccessNow said, "It is an honor to work closely with the athletes involved in this project, their voices and perspectives contribute to the 'nothing about us without us' mandate that we pride ourselves on celebrating across Canada."

Trans Canada Trail and AccessNow partnership for AccessOutdoors / Trails for All project. Mapping day at Stanley Park Seawall in Vancouver, British Columbia with Richard Peter. Alexa Fernando

This partnership also comes at a time when access to outdoor recreation is more important to Canadian citizens than ever. Studies from the spring of 2020 indicate that Canadian's mental health has worsened since the onset of social distancing protocols due to COVID-19.

The Mayo Clinic lists hiking, biking, and skiing as safe activities during COVID-19. Their website explains, "When you're outside, fresh air is constantly moving, dispersing these droplets. So you're less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected."

TCT leadership took this into consideration when embarking on the accessibility project. McMahon explains that there has never been a more important time to bring accessibility to the great outdoors: "Canadians have told us that during these difficult times, they value access to natural spaces to stay active, take care of their mental health, and socially connect with others while respecting physical distancing and public health directives. This partnership is incredibly important especially now as trails have become a lifeline for Canadians."

Together, these organizations are paving the way for better physical and mental health among all Canadians. To learn more about the TCT's mission and initiatives, check out their trail stories and 2020 Impact Report.


By Jessica Corbett

A new study is shedding light on just how much ice could be lost around Antarctica if the international community fails to urgently rein in planet-heating emissions, bolstering arguments for bolder climate policies.

The study, published Thursday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, found that over a third of the area of all Antarctic ice shelves — including 67% of area on the Antarctic Peninsula — could be at risk of collapsing if global temperatures soar to 4°C above pre-industrial levels.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Valley of the Gods in the heart of Bears Ears National Monument. Mint Images / Getty Images

By Sharon Buccino

This week, Secretary Haaland chose a visit to Bears Ears National Monument as her first trip as Interior Secretary. She is spending three days in Bluff, Utah, a small town just outside the monument, listening to representatives of the five tribes who first proposed its designation to President Obama in 2015. This is the same town where former Secretary Sally Jewell spent several hours at a public hearing in July 2016 before recommending the monument's designation to President Obama.

Read More Show Less

By Anthony Richardson, Chhaya Chaudhary, David Schoeman, and Mark John Costello

The tropical water at the equator is renowned for having the richest diversity of marine life on Earth, with vibrant coral reefs and large aggregations of tunas, sea turtles, manta rays and whale sharks. The number of marine species naturally tapers off as you head towards the poles.

Read More Show Less
"Secrets of the Whales" is a new series that will start streaming on Disney+ on Earth Day. Disney+

In celebration of Earth Day, a star-studded cast is giving fans a rare glimpse into the secret lives of some of the planet's most majestic animals: whales. In "Secrets of the Whales," a four-part documentary series by renowned National Geographic Photographer and Explorer Brian Skerry and Executive Producer James Cameron, viewers plunge deep into the lives and worlds of five different whale species.

Read More Show Less
Spring is an excellent time to begin bird watching in earnest. Eugenio Marongiu / Cultura / Getty Images

The coronavirus has isolated many of us in our homes this year. We've been forced to slow down a little, maybe looking out our windows, becoming more in tune with the rhythms of our yards. Perhaps we've begun to notice more, like the birds hopping around in the bushes out back, wondering (maybe for the first time) what they are.

Read More Show Less