File photo by ADVOCATE staff Red Deer County is forming a task force to find out what sort of trails the public wants to use.

Red Deer County launches trails task force

More trails a recommendation of a community needs assessment in 2017

A Red Deer County task force has been launched to look at trail possibilities.

Trails and more rural recreational opportunities were identified in a community needs assessment study the county undertook in 2017. A community well-being study further highlighted the local support for more opportunities to walk, hike, cycle and run on established trails in the county.

Since then, the county has boosted its recreation support in response to that part of the survey’s findings.

“We started doing that in 2019 and it’s going with great success,” said Dave Brand, county community and protective services director.

Forming a task force to look at trails is another effort to act on the recommendations of the needs assessment.

“The reason for the task force is to allow a community- or county-based group to gather some information from our residents and recommend some priorities with respect to where or what should be built,” said Brand.

The task force will include two members of council and up to five members of the public, drawn from different corners of the county.

In support of the project, the county set aside $60,000 in this year’s budget.

The task force will be set up this spring and will take a close look at what sorts of trails — divisional, regional or local — should be developed. Recommending the best locations and which trails should take priority, as well as what kinds of surface or standards should be adopted, will also be among its duties.

Public input will be sought and the task force will reach out to government and non-profit and private groups interested in trail development.

Trail boosters in central Alberta have been trying for years to create new routes linking communities. In 2016, Red Deer County turned down a proposed 11-kilometre link between Springbrook and Red Deer.

Council backed away because of concerns that public support was unclear and necessary firm commitments from donors had not materialized for what would have been a multimillion dollar project.

Gauging public support for those sorts of regional projects, or whether smaller-scale local trails are preferred, will be among the task force’s jobs.

Assessing the cost of both building and maintaining trails will also form part of the work, which is expected to come back to council in the form of recommendations later this year.

“We’d expect it could align with our next budget cycle with respect to recommendations,” he said.

The county typically approves its operating and capital budgets for the following year in December.

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