Regional trail studied
The groundwork has been laid for a recreational trail linking Penhold, Bowden and Innisfail, but any potential work on the ground is likely a long ways away.
The three towns and Red Deer County have partnered to investigate the possibility of building a regional trail that would link the communities.
Through a committee made up of representatives of the four jurisdictions, a concept plan has been put together that presents three possible routes a rural trail could take.
In the Regional Trail Concept Plan prepared by Edmonton-based firm RC Strategies, a trail from Penhold to Innisfail could range from 8.6 km to 17.8 km long and could travel along routes near the C&E Trail, the Red Deer River valley, or Highway 2A. A trail from Innisfail to Bowden, it suggested, would be around 11 km long and could utilize an abandoned rail line or connect the Bowden Institution to the trail system.
The concept plan would also see the three towns further develop their municipal trail systems.
The report estimates capital costs for trail development to be anywhere from $29,800 at its simplest to over $6 million for a fully-developed trail. Annual operating costs could be in the range of $29,800 to over $200,000.
Red Deer County councillors voted Tuesday to move forward with trail discussions, though concerns were raised about any future financial contributions it could be expected to make. The next step in the project steering committee’s work will be designing a consultation process to gauge public and stakeholder interest in the proposal.
The development of a trail linking the communities would require extensive negotiations with landowners in rural areas, and the province and CPR where the trail is near highways and rail tracks.
The trail could become part of the proposed coast-to-coast-to-coast Trans Canada Trail system, which is to be completed by 2017 for Canada’s 150th birthday.
The Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS) helped spearhead the initiative and has a representative on the steering committee. The steering committee is hoping funding for the project can be accessed through grants and corporate and private donations.
In the last six years, about $1 million has come in to support trail development in Central Alberta through grant money, said CARTS president Debbie Olsen.
Most recently, a rural trail many years in the making linking Lacombe and Blackfalds received funding from AlbertaTrailNet and the Trans Canada Trail Foundation.
Still, Olsen said the towns and counties that will benefit from trails “have some obligation to help to fund them.”
The concept plan cost $25,000 to put together, with grants from AlbertaTrailNet and the Trans Canada Trail Foundation contributing $17,500 to its completion. The remaining portion was cost-shared between the three towns and Red Deer County on a per capita basis.
Penhold council reviewed the report in July and accepted the trail committee’s request to continue participating in the project.
Bowden council, however, is deferring any further discussions on the initiative until 2014 budget deliberations, said the town’s chief administration officer Andy Weiss. Council believes the project is a good thing, said Weiss, but will wait to see if there is money available in its 2014 operating and capital budgets before deciding on whether to proceed.