By Arne Petryshen
This week, a man riding across Canada and petitioning the B.C. government for a safer Trans Canada Trail will make a stop in Sparwood.
Edmund Aunger is asking for an action plan from the government ensuring Trail BC’s section of the trail is completed in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations as promised. Aunger is also asking for immediate changes to sections of trail that lie on dangerous highways near Cranbrook, as well as Fernie, Sparwood, Malahat, Nanaimo River, Coquihalla Canyon and Summerland.
His goal is to promote the completion of a Trans Canada Trail that is accessible, passable and safe for everyone.
Aunger’s wife Elizabeth Sovis was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on the first day of a cycling journey on Prince Edward Island last July.
“We did most of our cycling in B.C,” he said. “My wife was extremely safety conscious and, whenever possible, refused to ride in the same lane as motor vehicles. That’s why we always travelled on the Trans Canada Trail. Unfortunately, there are many impassable and incomplete sections, and we were frequently forced to leave the greenway and ride on some scary roads and highways.”
In 2005, while cycling on Vancouver Island following the official B.C. Trail guide, the pair suddenly found themselves pedalling down a treacherous section of the Malhat Highway.
“It was an utterly terrifying experience, trying to dodge the road debris, with a rock cliff on our right and high-speed traffic on our left,” he said.
A number of similar experiences in the following years lead Sovis to decide to spend her retirement promoting the Trans Canada Trail. Her vision was for a trail that could be used safely by everyone, regardless of their age or ability, Aunger said.
She planned to take her retirement on July 1, 2013, less than a year from when she was killed.
“I am taking up her cause,” Aunger said.
He will be cycling the Trans Canada Trail from Victoria to Charlottetown, in five stages, beginning in July 2013 and finishing in July 2017.
“I hope to promote the Trail by increasing awareness, rallying support and raising funds.”
He began his ride in Victoria on Canada Day by reading the petition at the B.C. Legislature to about 30 supporters, mainly family and friends.
“Since that time, more than 600 people have signed the petition, and I hope that these numbers will increase dramatically as I cross the province.”
On Saturday, August 3, at 9 a.m., Aunger will be travelling along Highway 3 from Kikomun Creek through Elko and Fernie towards Sparwood where he will stop for the night.
For more information on Aunger’s “Ride the Trail for Elizabeth” campaign, go to www.ridethetrail.ca