Manitoba's Crow Wing Trail / Chemin Saint-Paul runs 193 km between Winnipeg and Emerson. With CDEM's support, the Crow Wing Trail Association Inc. (CWTA) aims to restore the trail, which opened in 2006, to its former glory.
Similar to the Santiago de Compostela "Camino" in Spain, trekkers will soon be able to obtain an official "passport" validating their walk through several key points along the Crow Wing Trail (CWT).
Murielle Bugera, CWTA Board Chair, explains: "It's really about encouraging Canadians to leave their vehicles behind and get back to nature. We want to get the region's residents to use the CWT, and hope to have everything in place by next summer."
Bugera laments the fact that the CWT is not better known, given the countless surprises it contains. "The trail takes you through a variety of regions, along the Roseau and Rat rivers, across fields and grassland, all the way to Emerson, which was historically bigger than Winnipeg. The Métis also travelled the route in their Red River carts."
In addition to the passport, CWTA plans to twin 25 km of the trail with another 75 km trail in Spain, the Coruña trail, that goes to Santiago de Compostela.
Ivor Lockhart, coordinator of the local chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims (CCoP), describes the rationale behind this project: "Pilgrims have to walk at least 100 km to get to Santiago de Compostela if they want to receive the compostela certificate from the authorities of the Santiago de Compostela cathedral.
"Pilgrims typically walk that 100 km from Sarria. However, that section of the pilgrimage has become extremely popular and crowded. The Spanish city of Coruña, north of Santiago de Compostela, has promoted its route as an alternative; however, the distance from Coruña to Santiago is only 75 km, which is too short for pilgrims to get their certificate."
Compostela authorities therefore decreed that pilgrims could make up the 25 km distance in their own country before going to Spain and walking from Coruña. As a result of this decision, some pilgrims, such as Manitoba's Loretta Humeniuk, have decided to start their walk in Canada and continue it in Spain.
"Loretta recently walked from St. Boniface Cathedral to Niverville, taking the Crow Wing Trail and getting stamps along the route," says Ivor Lockhart. "She then went to Spain and walked the pilgrimage from Coruña, obtaining the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage certificate and proving that the CWT was a viable route."
The next step for the Crow Wing Trail Association Inc. and the Canadian Company of Pilgrims is to give official status to this 25 km section of the trail and ask the Compostela authorities to approve a "CWT credit" similar to that of the Irish Society.
Says Wendy Loly, CCoP President: "The Irish Society made special arrangements with the dean of the Cathedral to create a "Celtic certificate" showing that people had walked 25 km in Ireland. They can take this document to the pilgrim's reception office in Santiago de Compostela to prove that they've completed the 25 km in their country. As far as I know, no international association has made any similar arrangements with the cathedral dean."
If this passport project is approved, the CWT will be the first trail in Manitoba, Canada, and indeed North America, to get this kind of recognition.
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