The future of the Central Alberta section of the Trans Canada Trail is up for debate at Red Deer County Council on Tuesday.
For some years, members of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society have been working on a project that would see construction of a trail between Bowden and Ponoka. The new trail, now partially complete, will be part of the Trans Canada Trail Network, which organizers plan to finish in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017.
The section from the south side of Red Deer through Blackfalds to Lacombe is now complete, including construction four years ago of a bridge over the Blindman River, CARTS president Paul Pettypiece said on Thursday.
However, all that exists south of Red Deer is a one-kilometre section between Springbrook and Penhold, he said.
The county has already received a portion of the grant promised by Trans Canada Trails toward building an 11-km section from the south side of the city to Springbrook, running along Range Road 280.
However, the county is now weighing its options and considering whether or not it should proceed with the project.
A report to council prepared by community services manager Jo-Ann Symington estimates the total cost of construction at $2.15 million for gravel or $3.04 million for pavement with annual maintenance estimated at $55,000 to $77,000.
Trans Canada Trail and the Alberta TrailNet Society are to provide half of the construction costs to a maximum of $1.5 million and there may be some additional funding to come from another source, Symington says in her report. However, the county has not received that commitment, she says.
She offers council two options: Consider offering a new level of service and moving ahead with the project or not proceeding with the project and returning funds that have been granted so far by Trans Canada Trail and Alberta TrailNet.
Pettypiece said county council has been reluctant to take on the role of building and maintaining the trail.
In a letter to council, he expressed concern that monies promised by Trans Canada and Alberta TrailNet will be diverted to other projects if the county decides against building the Springbrook section in time for the 2017 deadline.
In a letter to the county’s mayor and council, Pettypiece expressed concern for the safety of people who bike along Hwy 2A.
“Based on experience elsewhere, we are very confident that there are a lot more people who would bike to and from Red Deer and Penhold if there was a safe alternative to the highway,” he wrote.
Roadways will be used as temporary links for those portions of the Trans Canada Trail that have not been finished by the fall of 2017, he said.