Trail support denied

Local cyclists have vowed to take another shot at getting Red Deer County’s help with a bike trail between Springbrook and Red Deer.

Local cyclists have vowed to take another shot at getting Red Deer County’s help with a bike trail between Springbrook and Red Deer.

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, county council turned down a request to build and maintain an 11-kilometre multi-use trail that would become part of the Trans Canada Trail system. The mayor and council decided they could not move ahead with the project without assurances of public support and a firm commitment from other donors.

Mayor Jim Wood and various councillors involved in the discussion said that, while they support the proposal in principle, they have not had feedback from their ratepayers and therefore don’t have any way of gauging public response to the project. A community needs assessment is planned this fall, but it would not be completed in time to proceed with the project and still meet Trans Canada Trail’s deadline, said staff attending the meeting.

Community services staff had estimated that it would cost between $2.2 million and $3.04 million to buy the land and build the trail, with annual maintenance costs ranging from $55,000 to $77,000. Trans Canada Trail Foundation has committed to covering half of the capital costs, to a maximum of $1.5 million, providing the trail can be ready to use by September 30, 2017 — in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

About a dozen local cyclists attended the meeting, including one who was happy to see the proposal turned down.

Brenda Carratt said she views the project as a long-term burden on taxpayers during tough economic times.

“It’s a pit that’s never going to end,” said Carratt.

“Probably there will be another region that can use that $1.5 million. I don’t think we’re the ones that need it at this time. It’s tough times out there.”

Virginia Holt, who lived in Springbrook when it was still known as Mynarski Park, said local cyclists have been trying for decades to get a trail built from there to Red Deer.

“For 30 years we’ve been waiting for the Trans Canada Trail,” said Holt.

“How long do we wait? Lots of people bike on that road, you know, and it’s very dangerous.”

But Carratt said she would not feel safe biking on that trail, or any other for that matter.

“I’m not going to (bike) down some country road with my daughter and you don’t know who’s on that trail,” she said.

Paul Pettypiece, president of the Central Alberta Regional Trail Society, said he was “somewhat surprised” that council chose to deny the project and believes members may have felt backed into a corner to some extent.

“I believe, personally, that (the deadline) could still be met that if there was enough support that came forward in the meantime, say in the next 30 days,” said Pettypiece.

His group plans to meet with other organizations to see if some firm commitments can be made and brought back to the county to help build the trail and look after its maintenance.

“I think we would need to have a tremendous amount of community engagement, and it might include a petition or something of a similar nature, so that the county realizes that there is a tremendous amount of support for this trail,” said Pettypiece.

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