Red Deer’s River Bend trails could host Nordic sport competitions if improvements go ahead

Parkland Ski Club seeks provincial grant for $600,000 for the $1.3 million project

Red Deer could become a major Alberta centre for Nordic sport once River Bend trails are improved, city council was told on Monday.

Barb McKee, recreation superintendent for the City of Red Deer, told council that the Canmore Nordic Centre is already “maxed out… They are looking for other options, and are excited for another venue in Alberta.”

McKee believes Red Deer could draw other world-class events, beyond the 2019 Canada Winter games if the site improvements go ahead.

They are being proposed by the Parkland Ski Club, which wants to widen trails at certain sections, do some base improvements, and install some new lighting.

The enhancements would not cost Red Deer taxpayers any additional dollars. McKee just asked council to allow some previously granted municipal money — the $729,000 given to make technical improvements for hosting biathlon and cross-country skiing events during the 2019 games — to be leveraged as matching funds for a provincial grant the ski club applied for to cover the cost of additional upgrades.

The club hopes to get $600,000 from the province, since the total cost of the site improvements is $1.3 million.

Council supported the club’s request after Mayor Tara Veer questioned whether the new trail lighting would be potentially harmful to the ecology at River Bend. She was told the club consulted with the Red Deer River Naturalists to reduce impact on the area.

McKee said the lighting would be “black sky friendly,” meaning the lighting fixtures would be hooded, aiming light at the ground. The low-level LED lights would mostly be installed in flat, open areas, and not the woods.

Several city councillors questioned whether operating costs at River Bend would mount after these improvements. McKee said there was no way of knowing yet — and, in any case, it would be up to council to determine how much regular maintenance was done to the site.

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