On the trail of a good idea

To Clearwater County and the groups supporting a trail link from Rocky Mountain House to Nordegg.

Bouquet…

To Clearwater County and the groups supporting a trail link from Rocky Mountain House to Nordegg.

The proposal is for a trail 125 km long, much of it along abandoned rail right-of-way, suitable for hikers, cyclists, horses and ATVs.

The cost has been estimated at about $6.8 million, which will need to be fundraised by the groups that want to see the trail built.

There will be several day-use camps for access along the way, and plans are for regular placement of washrooms and bear-safe garbage containers as well.

This will be the largest experiment in mixed-use trails in Central Alberta, and it will be an opportunity to see if a natural resource like this can be enjoyable for both motorized and non-motorized users at the same time.

The natural outdoor experience has become a growth area in tourism and Alberta has a lot of that to offer. Long trail opportunities are major tourist attractions the world over, as baby boomers rediscover the outdoors as a playground.

Not everyone can walk or cycle 125 km on a vacation — as much fun as that is. This would be a good place to demonstrate how a formal trail can keep people from making informal trails — which are a lot more damaging to the environment. And to show that a wide variety of people who enjoy being in a natural area can get along.

— Greg Neiman

Bouquet…

To Councillor Gail Parks, for trying to bring public art in the city into new focus.

This week, Parks asked for a review of the City of Red Deer’s public art policy on four fronts:

• The amount budgeted: the current policy allows the city to spend 1.2 per cent of capital construction costs on public art. Parks suggests the city allocate less to the purchase of art. In tough economic times, it is a notion that certainly deserves debate, although a serious constriction would be a mistake. It may make more sense to curtail spending on art for the balance of the year, and re-examine the policy next year.

• The threshold for initiating art purchases: the policy requires that art be purchased for any project of $250,000 or more. Parks proposes that any capital project have an art component, not just the major projects. This would mean that far more artists would have their work considered, not just those working on a large scale. And it would mean that something other than sculpture would be considered.

• The placement of art: at present, new art purchased is placed on the site of the construction project in question. Parks wants the art to go in places of high public traffic. The new civic yards is hardly a great showcase for public art; if there is no public traffic, public art loses its meaning.

• The source of the art: Parks objects to the latest round of purchases; four pieces of art have been purchased to adorn new or renovated public buildings for $325,000 — and all four are from artists working outside Alberta. It makes sense to choose worthy art, regardless of the source, but it would be far better if some percentage of the annual budget was dedicated to local or Alberta artists. A community’s cultural identity isn’t just defined by its public art, but by its art community; and it’s up to the city, in great part, to encourage that community.

— John Stewart

Dart…

To cyclists who foolishly tempt fate by listening to music through headphones as they ride around Red Deer.

Next time you’re out driving in your vehicle, have a look to see how many cyclists are doing exactly that — and you’ll likely be shocked at the number who are.

Riding a bike while listening to an mp3 player is just asking for trouble.

Not surprisingly, earlier this week in Edmonton, a 13-year-old cyclist suffered severe internal and head injuries when he was struck by a car.

He was not wearing a helmet, but he was listening to an iPod when the accident happened, Edmonton police say.

We can only hope his eggs were not permanently scrambled.

Other cyclists put themselves at risk by wearing dark clothing and riding on the road when a safer paved trail is often close at hand.

Too many cyclists maintain that they have just as much of a right to use the roads as do people driving motorized vehicles.

But they shouldn’t be making dangerous choices that force motorists to take an unwilling role in an accident.

— Lee Giles

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