A project is underway to develop a 120-km off-road designated trail system west of Sundre and Caroline.
Sundre resident Cal Rakach said on Wednesday that the Rig Street project received some matching grant funding this week from the federal government, and he expects “to hit the ground running” come next summer.
The trail system could be used by people who use off-road vehicles such as quads, plus fish and gamers, campers and so on, he said.
The idea is to use existing oil and gas or forestry routes in the forest, and have a trail system that steers people toward better areas and away from certain areas such as on top of pipelines and through creeks.
An area known as Rig Street runs from west of Bearberry northward to west of Caroline. There have been oil and gas and forestry roads there for many years, and it is popular for random camping, snowmobiling and quadding.
The Clearwater Trails Initiative came up with the Rig Street project, and once it is mapped out and developed, a body will be established to look after maintaining it, arm’s length from government.
Rakach, 56, is a member of the initiative, described as a group that includes community, industry and government working together to reduce conflict, educate people and share ideas.
“We have to do an initial inventory to find out what trails are there,” said Rakach.
Those current trails would be un-designated, random routes.
Rakach said a lot of the funding will be spent on preplanning the trail system, having a look at where work needs to be done, determining the number of kilometres involved, and then designing it.
There will need to be approvals from government.
They hope to begin work next summer. “Most of what we are going to be doing is rehabilitating existing trail … fixing holes and all that.”
Rakach said they have about half the funding they will need. This week’s approval of funding comes from the federally-funded National Trails Coalition. Other groups have also pitched in.
Once the trail is designated, it will need to be maintained.
There is a push being made to have off-road vehicle users pay an enhancement fee when they register their vehicles. This money could go toward the maintenance of the trail system.
Rakach said polling of users has seen high support “because everyone is saying there’s a need for more trails.”
“This is all cutting edge stuff. It’s about community taking control of our back country.”
Rakach is also vice-president of the Alberta Outdoors Coalition. The 13-member coalition focuses on public use of public land.
“We are all in this together as different users and we want responsible use so we promote responsible use.
“There’s lots of land out there and we need to share it.”
Rakach describes himself as a “gearhead” and a “chronic” outdoorsman.
“I also fish and hunt and go out with the kids and look at the trees.”
The initiative has also tried to get grant funding for a designated trail system for the Meadows project, an area between Ram Mountain and the North Saskatchewan River about 50 km from Rocky.
They did not get approval because there was not enough money and too many applications.
“We took a shot at it. It’s sitting there.”