Two new bridges are expected to be built this year for trails crossing the Blindman River and the Battle River.
The Central Alberta Regional Trail Society has been working on the project with Lacombe County, the Town of Ponoka and other municipalities in Central Alberta and has just about collected enough money to move forward with the projects.
The bridge crossing the Blindman River will be between Red Deer and Blackfalds at the end of the C&E trail, just down from the rail bridge.
The other bridge, crossing Battle River, is planned for the north end of Ponoka, north of the Thinking Tree.
Town of Ponoka Councillor John Jacobs said the Ponoka project has collected $200,000 from Alberta TrailNet to be used for the bridge and trail from Ponoka to Lacombe. Another $85,560 for the bridge and $66,280 for the trail will come from the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, $52,000 has been collected in donations from citizens and $102,000 has been put in reserve by the Town of Ponoka for the project.
Jacobs, who is also a director of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society and a director of Alberta TrailNet, said they will put an application in soon for another $200,000 under the National Trails Coalition/Federal Trail grant program, which they hope to find out about by mid-July. He said whether or not they get the money, they will proceed with the project, but it will determine the level of construction and whether or not the full project will be completed this year or if things like signage will be done as money becomes available.
“First of all, it is vital for two reasons — on a local level because it obviously gives us more access to our trail system and it is vital to the Trans Canada Trail system,” Jacobs said. The work on the Ponoka bridge will be done by Will’s Welding, with the decking for the bridge anticipated to be completed by the Canadian military engineers. The project could start as soon as July, with the bridge being completed by the fall.
The bridge crossing the Blindman River is expected to cost $250,000 to $300,000, with work starting in the winter. A tender is being prepared for the construction of the bridge, with Canadian military engineers coming later to do the bridge decking.
Phil Lodermeier, manager of operations with Lacombe County, said Alberta TrailNet has given $100,000, the National Trails Coalition has given $50,000, the Trans Canada Trail Foundation has put $20,000 to the design and engineering and has committed $50,000 for the construction of the bridge, Lacombe County will donate up to $50,000 worth of bridge materials.
He said the county will soon apply for $1 million for a Recreation Infrastructure Canada grant through Western Economic Diversification Canada for money to work on the trail. The trail will be for bicycles or pedestrians. It will run parallel to Hwy 2 from the Blindman River to Morningside and cost around $2 million. He said if the grant doesn’t go through, it will be a matter of doing it piece by piece.
“I think it’s a really exciting time for trails people. I think it would be a great addition to Lacombe County, as far as quality of life for our residents,” Lodermeier said. “So hopefully we can make it happen.”