Trail development tops society agenda

A pair of bridges are now finished and progress is being made on a regional trail running between Penhold and Ponoka, says the president of the Central Alberta Regional Trail Society.

A pair of bridges are now finished and progress is being made on a regional trail running between Penhold and Ponoka, says the president of the Central Alberta Regional Trail Society.

CARTS members, including the various trail groups and municipalities taking part in the 70.6-kilometre proposed trail, will review progress made to date and look for ways of getting more trail built over the next number of years during its annual general meeting on Wednesday, president Debbie Olsen said on Monday.

Olsen said members hope the meeting will attract people who would like to learn more about trail development in the region.

While not directly involved in building trails, CARTS was formed to provide support and guidance to local trail development groups, said Olsen.

Sections of the proposed regional trail are at or near completion, including a portion running through Red Deer County between Springbrook and Penhold, some sections inside the city and the section working south from Ponoka toward Lacombe County, she said.

Trails within the Town of Lacombe, built largely by marathon runner Bill Neilson, have been included in the route.

Neilson has been invited, providing the weather co-operates, to lead a one-hour hike on the Lacombe trails in advance of the meeting, set for the Town of Lacombe municipal offices at 7 p.m.

While much of the trail remains incomplete, bridges were built earlier this year over the Blindman River, south of Blackfalds and inside the Town of Ponoka, crossing the Battle River, she said.

Funding for the bridges was shared between all three levels of government and with federal and provincial agencies involved in the Trans Canada Trail, including the National Trails Coalition and Alberta Trail Net.

CARTS will host a grand opening of the Blindman River bridge on June 5, which is International Trails Day.

Included on the guest list are members of the Canadian Army Corps of Engineers who played a key role in its construction. Details of the celebration are to be announced shortly.

A grand opening date has not been set for the bridge in Ponoka.

The Ponoka section of the trail is now moving southward toward the Lacombe County boundary, with members hoping to connect at the J.J. Collett Natural Area, said Olsen.

Other key sections still to come are trails connecting the city and towns along the route, which will provide a safer ride for people who currently use Hwy 2A to ride between Red Deer and Lacombe, she said.

One of the biggest challenges still facing the group is convincing rural landowners to support construction of trails along abandoned railway lines running past or through their properties, said Olsen.

A number of rural landowners in Alberta still resisting the idea, concerned that garbage will be strewn along the trail and that there will be an increase in vandalism.

Records to date have shown that vandalism and littering are actually less of a problem in areas where trails have been built, said Olsen.

bkossowan@bprda.wpengine.com