Trails society undeterred by major development setbacks

When your passion is trail building, long journeys and obstacles don’t deter you.

  • Sep. 2, 2016 5:33 a.m.

When your passion is trail building, long journeys and obstacles don’t deter you.

In that spirit Central Alberta Regional Trails Society members accepted the bad news that a proposed 15-km trail in Lacombe County would not happen this year — and likely not for some time.

“We’ve had two major setbacks this year in terms of rural trail development,” said Paul Pettypiece, society president. A Red Deer-to-Springbrook link through Red Deer County was also stopped in its tracks.

But trail supporters’ ultimate goal of creating a trail link at least between Innisfail and Ponoka remains, said Pettypiece.

“It’s just going to take a little longer than we had hoped that’s all.”

In Lacombe County, landowner opposition to the trail could not be overcome. With a handful of property owners unwilling to part with a strip of land for trail use, and alternative routes extremely costly, county council voted to drop the project. It meant giving up $695,000 in grants that had been lined up.

In July, an 11-km link between Springbrook and Red Deer was turned down.

Red Deer County council voted against the project because of concerns that public support was unclear and necessary firm commitments from donors had not materialized.

That trail was expected to cost $2.2 million to $3 million with up to $1.5 million of that covered by the Trans Canada Trail Foundation if the link could be in use by the fall of 2017 — in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

Pettypiece said the trails group will continue to push for more trails and to spread the message of their benefits. In Lacombe County, the impact of a nearby trail on privacy was a concern of landowners. Vandalism, littering, loose pets harassing livestock and increased crime have also been cited as negatives.

“It’s going to take some time and it’s going to take some effort to get out and try to overcome some of these fears that people have,” he said.

Experience in other areas where trails have been built shows that most landowner concerns did not materialize.

“Most of the fears that people have had are fairly common before trails are built,” he said. “Then they discover that once trails are built very rarely do these things happen.”

Most trail users are responsible and are watchful for those not respecting the routes.

“Organized trails, especially when there are good connections and there’s a reasonable amount of usage, tend to be self-policing. People who are troublemakers don’t like an audience.”

Pettypiece said the society is still working out its next step, put public education is expected to be a focus going forward.