A project that could bring more control to random camping and off-road vehicle use west of Caroline is going full throttle this year with matched funding continuing to come in.
The Clearwater Trail Initiative’s Rig Street project involves the development of a 120-km off-road designated trail system west of Caroline, and involves an area about 13 km by 23 km.
People already use the area — commonly called Rig Street — for off-road vehicle activity such as quadding, camping and hunting and fishing.
Cal Rakach, who has long been involved, was recently hired as project manager. He did a chunk of GPS work last fall before winter hit, locating 65 spots that people use for random camping. This Phase One inventory includes little camping nooks in trees to open areas on pipelines, well sites and forestry landing areas, and will help determine where people are going in the area and why they are there.
Rakach, who is from Sundre, said random trails used by off-roaders are also being recorded to determine if they are in good, fair or poor shape. Areas such as creek crossings are being noted. The crossings may require bridges or boardwalks.
Ultimately, they want to move people off active well sites and facilities for safety purposes, Rakach said.
“We also want to identify sites where this is a safe place and please camp here, not over here. And we want to make sure they have a trail that takes them where they want to go so they are not on the road and have to find a trail head to go in the bush.”
One big reason people are in the area is so they can ride their off-road vehicles right from their campsite.
As the year unfolds, the initiative will be involved in land work such as obtaining crossing agreements from oil and power companies, education, and outreach to communities.
They intend to put up signs for camping and trails, provide maps and education material available and machinery on existing trails that have grown to open them up.
“There’s lots of work to be done,” Rakach said. “We’ve got to do a bunch more looking and planning.”
The Rig Street project will need long-term funding for a maintenance and steward program.
The work they are doing will increase the use of the area, said Rakach.
“We want to be very careful … people out there are looking for quality riding experience. And we don’t have a lot of them (in Alberta). When we stick up our hand and say ‘Hey we’ve got this area and we’ve got good trails and we’ve got mapping,’ we’re going to have a pile of people showing up. And that is a real danger because if we don’t have the full management strategy in place, the maintenance end of it, the monitoring and the enforcement, the education part of it, we’re doomed to fail.
“We want to invite people to it but we want to be ready when people come.”
The Rig Street project, if funds are fully matched, will have about $390,000 available, which must be spent this year. The project recently received $94,000 for a total now of $189,000 via a partnership between the federal government and the National Trails Coalition.
The government is providing $10 million between 2014 and 2016 for various types of trails across Canada. These include snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle and non-motorized trails.
Rakach said the Clearwater Trails Initiative has also recently been registered as a synergy group, to centre around resource development and include various stakeholders such as Alberta residents, landowners, and industry.
Last May long weekend, the Clearwater Initiative put up signs, using a rendition of a sasquatch, aka Bigfoot, to indicate good and not-so-good spots for camping. Rakach said they saw very good co-operation from people.
Two other projects received federal funding recently. The Rocky Mountain Dirt Riders Association gets $33,000 to rehabilitate and construct dirt bike trails in the Maclean’s Creek and South Ghost Recreation Areas. The Eastern Slopes ATV Society gets $128,000 to rehabilitate and improve a staging area. These areas are south of the Rig Street area.