A new provincial initiative is aiming to improve existing recreational trails, but the infusion of cash will not help efforts to expand the local system.
The province announced on Saturday — International Trails Day — that it was investing $1 million in a two-year pilot project that will bring together officials from governments provincial, municipal and rural with trail organization representatives to further develop infrastructure for existing trails.
Along with the Alberta TrailNet Society, provincial snowmobile and off-highway vehicle associations will be involved in the Alberta Recreation and Trails Partnership.
One local organization, the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS), has been working to secure hiking/cycling trail linkages for the Trans Canada Trail in Central Alberta.
Its current efforts mostly centre around extending the recreational trail system from Red Deer south to Bowden.
The new provincial project intends to enhance trail signage and mapping, promote trails and identify trail enforcement issues.
But the expansion and development of new recreation trails is “outside the scope” of the initiative.
Paul Pettypiece, CARTS vice-president, said he does not expect the project will have a great effect on his group’s efforts.
CARTS is involved in a study to determine the best route for a trail between Red Deer and Springbrook, and is also pushing forward with a plan for a Springbrook-to-Penhold link.
CARTS has had some good news in 2014, notably in February when Alberta Transportation reversed its opposition to trails being located near provincial highways.
The move will allow CARTS to consider more potential routes in its plans for Penhold-to-Bowden and Red Deer-to-Sylvan Lake trails.
Earlier this year, the federal government announced that it would partially match donations to the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, a fund that regional trail groups across the country can tap into to bankroll development projects. The foundation’s goal is to have a continuous series of trails connecting all coasts by 2017.
The partnership committee will also feature a representative from the tourism industry.