Horseback riders ponder alternatives after province says neigh to Confederation Trail

·3 min read

A group of horseback riders on P.E.I. is looking at other options after their request to use sections of the Confederation Trail was rejected by the provincial government.

Donna Lee Cole, an avid rider and member of the group, said they had asked to use a 10 to 20 kilometre section of the trail in each of the three counties as a pilot for the summer of 2021. They would share the trail with cyclists, joggers and walkers, as is done in other parts of the country.

"We want to be part of the nature and the different woods and the undulating landscape and hillside, that's what we're looking for as trail riders," she said.

"If we could access parts of the trail in rural areas to connect to separate adjoining trails that would be phenomenal."

However, when they met last fall with Steven Myers, P.E.I.'s minister of transportation, infrastructure and energy, he quickly made his position clear.

"My response was no," he said, "but that I would work with them in developing trails around that they could use for horses."

Travis Kingdon/CBC
Travis Kingdon/CBC

Myers said government would be willing to partner with the group to redevelop the old horseback trail in Forest Hill near Dundas in eastern P.E.I.

"It's a really nice trail in a really picturesque area," he said.

"We're looking at what we can do to bring that back. And certainly interested in if we can help create a new type of multi-use trail that includes horses in other parts of Prince Edward Island. We'd also entertain that."

Myers said money could come from the active transportation fund.

I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great. — Donna Lee Cole

He said staff in his department have told him that allowing horses on the Confederation Trail would cause bumps and ruts that would make it unsafe for cyclists and walkers, and would require a lot of maintenance.

Cole said she disagrees that the horses would cause damage to the trail, and was "quite disappointed" when the proposal was rejected. Currently, horses are allowed on P.E.I. roads, but anyone riding on the Confederation Trail can face fines up to $1,000.

"I'm not ready to drop it but if he is willing to come up with alternatives, that would be great," Cole said.

Myers has asked the group to come up with a plan that doesn't include the Confederation Trail.

'The door is open'

"From where I stand, the door is open and we're here and ready to work," he said.

"I want it to be their project. I'd kind of want them to be the lead on it because they're the experts.… Just like we do with cycling groups and walking, hiking groups, we rely on them to say, 'here is what we want,' and then we try to make it fit into the program that we have currently running."

Janice MacSwain, another member of the group who met with the province, said the Confederation Trail is a logical first option because of its accessibility, but she is more concerned about just having a safe place to ride. She is looking forward to meeting with government to further discuss the possibilities.

"I really want it to go forward in whatever format we can for the safety. I ride with a young girl sometimes and when we're on the road I'm just a little bit nervous," she said.

"It's just not as safe on the roads as it was, say, 20, 30, 40 years ago."

Cole said the horseback riding group is also in discussions with the ATV Federation about the possibility of sharing their trail system.

More from CBC P.E.I.