For trail riding advocates in Prince Edward Island, there is hope that a pilot program that started in 2021 will become permanent, and even expand access to the Confederation Trail.

Horse-Canada reported in 2022 on how the program was extended through that year. Now, according to a CBC news report, a total of 66 kilometres are currently open to horses in all three of the island province’s counties.

Some of the riders want the trails opened further throughout the province. One such rider is Dr. Sylvia Hall Andrews, a veterinarian who is also the secretary of P.E.I. Trail Riders. “We would like to see an expansion of trail access over time…. The government is well aware our goal is to slowly increase the accessibility,” Hall Andrews said in a CBC article. “We feel that horses are safe on the trail, belong on the trail.”

The trail riders must share the trail system with hikers, runners, and cyclists. And herein lies some of the continued controversy. “We are concerned about the impact on the trail bed, we’re concerned about the impact on other users, the potential safety issues if there are too many users of different kinds,” Jordan Bober, the executive director of the group Cycling PEI told the CBC.

Stephen Szwarc is the province’s director of highway maintenance, which oversees use of the Confederation Trail, told the pubcaster that his staff monitor damage from all users, but that over the course of the pilot program no major issues or damage have been reported with the horses or interactions between various users.

Regarding if horseback riding will become a permanent fixture on the province’s trails, the jury is still out. According to Szwarc, the province is expecting an independent report “based on public meetings and online surveys.” That report is due this summer, after which expect still more feedback and public consultations.

“It’s a very, very small piece of the overall trail pie,” said Hall Andrews in the article. “We appreciate there’s still some trepidation among some other users, but horses share trails successfully in other parts of Canada.”

The trail system was opened to equestrians from July 1 to Oct. 31.