The new 13-km FireSmart Ecology Trail near Nordegg opens for the first time this long weekend to hikers and mountain bikers.
The opening comes during Frontier Lodge’s mountain bike competition Fat Tire Festival, with guided trail rides of the FireSmart Trail available.
The trail runs through 10 km of previously clearcut forest between Goldeye Lake and Shunda Lake, 12 km west of Nordegg on Hwy 11. It will give people the opportunity to watch the forest re-grow.
The forest was harvested over the last two winters with trail development started earlier this year.
The FireSmart project is about reducing the threat of forest fires to nearby communities. The forest was so old that a fire would burn with such severe intensity that it would be difficult to control.
The clearcut will also renew the forest with aspens that will return nitrogen into the ground, and are also not very conducive to wildfire spread.
New grasses and plants will take hold, providing new habitat for local wildlife.
Barry Shellian, wildfire ranger and information officer for Alberta Environment Sustainable Resource Development, said it didn’t take long for plants to sprout.
“It went from a grey meadow and it’s green now,” Shellian said on Friday.
“It’s going to be exciting to watch.”
He plans to shoot seasonal videos on the trail to show how the forest springs back to life.
The primary start to the trail is at Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area and it runs to Satellite Hill, adjacent to Goldeye Centre. It will also connect with existing trails and will be lined with interpretive signs.
FireSmart Ecology Trail was developed by the Alberta Environment Sustainable Resource Development staff in Rocky Mountain House, in partnership with Frontier Lodge, Tourism Parks and Recreation, Sundre Forest Products and Mountain Equipment Co-op.
Shellian said eliminating the heavy canopy of tree limbs means more snow will also hit the ground for winter recreation.
“We created a healthier forest. We created a safer community. We created bike trails. We have it all set up this winter for people to ski through the trails as well,” Shellian said.
The trail is open to all non-motorized forms of travel.
Brad Andrews, executive director at Frontier Lodge, said about 100 participants are competing at the 23rd annual Fat Tire Festival, along with many spectators. For a list of Fat Tire Festival events, competitions and guided trail rides, visit www.frontierlodge.ca/FatTireFestival.