The government of P.E.I. is asking residents to share how they use the Confederation Trail, as well as offer suggestions on how the system of paths built along the routes of the province's historic railway lines could be improved.
The first of four "in-person workshops" was held Monday night in Borden-Carleton. Three other public meetings are scheduled for St. Peter's Bay on Wednesday evening, Mill River on Thursday and Stratford next Monday night.
"We want to hear from people to help us ensure the Confederation Trail is safe and properly maintained for generations to come," Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Ernie Hudson was quoted as saying in a news release about the workshops.
The province is also accepting written comments by mail, by e-mail and through an online survey until Dec. 1.
Currently, the P.E.I. Snowmobile Association leases the trail during the winter, while walkers and cyclists use it mostly during the rest of the year. Horseback riders are permitted to use certain sections of the trail, and there are places where ATVs are permitted to cross it.
The ATV Federation of P.E.I. has been planning a tip to tip trail since 2018, and has been granted permission to cross the Confederation Trail at certain points.
Executive director Peter Mellish hopes they can access other parts of the trail at "pinch points" like the West Devon swamp and the Miscouche swamp.
The Confederation Trail is popular among walkers and cyclists in the summer months — and Cycling P.E.I. would like to keep it to those two modes of transportation. (Shane Ross/CBC)
"Environmentally, it doesn't make sense to build new trails when there's a trail there, and maybe there's a way we can work together to co-exist on sections of the trail and create pilot projects so that it's not a wholesale access to all the trail," he said.
Mellish said the federation would be willing to chip in money for trail maintenance if necessary.
He said his group welcomes the feedback that will be gathered at the public meetings.
"We'd like to see a lot of discussion, a lot of collaboration, a lot of sharing information."
Concern for safety, trail beds
Jeff Perry, who runs a Facebook group called ATV's on our Confederation Trail, said many of its members would like to see even greater access to the trail. He said that could boost tourism by attracting out-of-province riders and bring more awareness to the sport.
"Not only that, it's also a great way to get out and enjoy nature, see the Island for what it is," he said.
Jordan Bober, executive director of Cycling P.E.I., said the group would prefer that motorized vehicles and horse riders not have full use of the trails from spring through fall.
"We don't really see that there's very good compatibility — with walkers and cyclists on the one hand and then with sort of non-human powered forms of transportation like ATVs and horses on the other hand — both because of the safety risks that it introduces as well as the risks to the trail bed itself."