A 14-km bike trail designed to allow users to watch a forest grow and shield a community from fire is extending.
Barry Shellian, wildlife ranger and information officer for the Rocky Mountain House Management Area, said this summer the FireSmart Ecology trail west of Nordegg will extend another seven km to connect to the Goldeye Centre.
Shellian said the ground work has been completed, including the FireSmart techniques and putting down the boardwalks.
“It is all flagged out,” he said.“Most of us are going out to wildfires lately. When we have opportunity, we will be pursuing that. Once we work out the final details, we will have maps and interpretive signs will be all throughout the area.”
The trail, which is part of the national FireSmart program, and the only of its kind in Central Alberta, was completed last summer.
Clearcutting, or block cutting, has been developed into a useful tool for forest management. It is particularly critical in areas where a prescribed burn cannot be carried out due to proximity to a community and lack of a natural fire break, as is the case with the area that the trail will run through.
“We’re seeing a very aging forest on the land base,” said Shellian.
“We want to implement messages to ensure we have a healthy forest for the future. But a real mover of this is the wildfires in the area.”
The staging area is at the Fish Lake Provincial Recreation Area. It runs through previously clearcut forest between Goldeye Lake and Shunda Lake.
Shellian said they did not keep track of the numbers but he is confident the trail was well used. Cross-country skiers were among the many who took advantage of the new system.
“It is an opportunity for recreationalists to witness forest succession that will create a healthier forest and a safer community for Nordegg,” said Shellian.
Onlookers are beginning to see a regeneration of wildflowers, grasses and herbs.
“Most importantly, we are seeing the aspen trees coming back,” said Shellian. “They are already a couple feet high. They grow very quickly. In a decade, which is very short in forest time, we are going to see very tall trees above our head out there.”
He said the aspen trees have leaves and a fleshy bark that are essentially nature’s fire guard.
“It is going to be a fire barrier to Nordegg. It is going to go through the whole succession of forest over time.”
The trail was created in partnership with Frontier Lodge, Tourism Parks and Recreation, Sundre Forest Products and Mountain Equipment Co-op and Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.