I am a member of the Red Deer cross-country ski community who uses the groomed ski trails at River Bend Recreation Area and Heritage Ranch several times a week throughout the winter months.
The ski trails at both areas are machine-groomed by volunteers who are also avid skiers. I am frustrated by the frequent damage done to the trails at River Bend by walkers, dogs and the occasional runner. I am not sure if these users, especially with dogs, are aware that their footprints damage the groomed ski trails. Foot traffic puts deep holes in the snow, exposes the dirt and rocks underneath and increases the melting around these areas. This decreases the lifespan of the trail, particularly in a low snow year, and increases the chances of gravel or dirt coming to the surface where our ski bases can be damaged.
I wonder if these users realize that ski volunteers put in countless hours to groom these trails for the skiers to use? As well, do they know that we pay a trail fee to ski on the groomed trails at River Bend?
On behalf of the ski community, I would ask you to not walk or run or bring your dogs onto the groomed ski trails at River Bend. There are many other areas for this (McKenzie Trails, Three Mile Bend and Barrett Park, to name a few).
Skiers only have two groomed parks to use and we work hard to create pristine groomed ski trails in both.
If you like walking or running on a machine-groomed trail, perhaps you could form an organization, fundraise and apply for grants to buy a skidoo and grooming equipment, and have your members groom trails in a central park in the city for your group to use.
If you are a city council member or board member at River Bend reading this, perhaps you would consider passing a bylaw to preserve our groomed ski trails at River Bend by prohibiting foot and bike traffic as well as dogs on these trails once the ski season has begun. Perhaps the city could put up signage at the entrance from Three Mile Bend advising dog owners to keep their dogs off the ski trails and asking hikers to not walk on the ski trails. Heritage Ranch has done this and it seems to work; the pedestrians for the most part do respect those ski trails and avoid walking on them.
Last year, the city had a pilot program in place to clear some of the asphalt trails along the river in the downtown area for walkers and runners. Could this pilot program be continued or even expanded and promoted to increase awareness?
I am sure there are many positive and creative ideas out there to keep both of these user groups happy, active and enjoying our beautiful outdoor parks during our long winter months. If you have any ideas, I for one would love to hear about them.