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President's Reports 2008
New Rural Trail on the Horizon
by Debbie Olsen, CARTS President
Republished from Alberta TrailTracker Fall 2008
 
Talk trails to urban residents and you are likely preaching to the converted. Trails have long been recognized as one of the best-used and most cost effective recreational facilities in modern urban centres. They allow residents better access to open green spaces, promote healthy living and even affect economic development.
 
Unfortunately, trails have not always held the same appeal for rural residents. One of the challenges for stimulating support for trails and green spaces in rural communities has been the sense that there is already an abundance of open space. But things are changing in Alberta. More than ever, rural residents are looking for ways to stay active and walking and cycling are becoming more popular pursuits. Rural residents want better access to natural areas such as lakes and wetlands and many would like to see linkages between rural communities and urban ones.
 
Central Alberta is experiencing the benefits of this shift in attitude thanks to some innovative and forward-thinking rural municipalities who have taken the time to ask their residents what they want and followed through with a plan to make it happen. In 2005, Red Deer County commissioned an Open Spaces Master Plan that identified the need for trails as one of the most important recreational facilities to Red Deer County residents. A subsequent survey of residents in 2007 for the Recreational Facilities Master Plan reconfirmed the importance of trails when county residents listed trails as one of the top recreational facilities they would like Red Deer County to undertake. "Residents have said they want trails and we have been working on a plan to answer that request," says Jo-Ann Symington, Community Services Manager for Red Deer County. "The Open Spaces Management Plan identified three trails that were a top priority and we are currently working on plans to build a 3.6 km trails from Springbrook to Penhold, a 6.8 km trail between Spruce View and Dickson and a one km trail at the west end of Glennifer Lake to provide public access to the Red Deer River."
 
The section of trail linking Springbrook and Penhold is planned to be part of the Trans Canada Trail and Red Deer County is hoping to apply for funding support from Alberta TrailNet and the Trans Canada Trail Foundation and to begin construction in 2009. "We see it as providing a valuable linkage between the communities of Springbrook and Penhold," says Symington. "We are in the process of surveying, completing the engineering for the project, and obtaining right of way. We plan to make it a showcase for the Trans Canada Trail in Alberta. There is a beautiful wetland area and there will be some opportunities for a unique design that has educational as well as recreational value."
 
The Springbrook to Penhold section of the Trans Canada Trail and the other rural trails currently in the works at Red Deer County clearly demonstrate that attitudes are changing when it comes to rural trails in some parts of Alberta. The excitement about trails in Central Alberta is almost tangible and thanks to forward-thinking municipalities and hard-working trail advocates, we anticipate more exciting news about Trans Canada Trail development in Central Alberta over the coming months.

Update on Central Alberta 2008 - President's Report 2008
 
For many years, the communities of central Alberta have been meeting regularly through the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS) to discuss ways to promote trails in this part of the province. Alberta TrailNet (ATN) and the Trans Canada Trail Foundation (TCT) have offered support and expertise as Central Alberta communities and volunteers have worked together to help foster support for trail initiatives. Here is an update on what has been achieved in the last few years and a glimpse at what is on the horizon for trails in central Alberta.
 
- A little more than two years ago, the map for the TCT was changed in Alberta to include a trail linking communities from Penhold to Wetaskiwin. This was the culmination of several years of work by volunteers and communities in central Alberta.
 
- Once central Alberta had a registered section of TCT, CARTS was able to hire a TCT Coordinator (Derry Armstrong) thanks to funding support from the TCT Foundation.
 
- CARTS realized that limited funding was available for trails. Central Alberta communities brought forward a resolution at the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association's annual general meeting to ask the Alberta government to better fund trails in the province. This resolution was passed with strong support from the AUMA.
 
- In order to link communities within Central Alberta, several bridges will be necessary. The two key bridges are located between Blackfalds and Red Deer over the Blindman River and in Ponoka over the Battle River. CARTS helped municipalities in those regions apply for and receive funding from the TCT Foundation for the engineering of both of these bridges. We are currently working with communities to develop a plan to get these bridges built and in the past year, we received funding commitments of up to $400,000 towards the construction of these two bridges. ATN has committed to fund $100,000 towards each bridge and TCT Foundation has committed to fund $85,000 towards the Battle River Bridge and will also provide funding for the Blindman Bridge. The TCT has also been approached to provide bridge funding.
 
- The Town of Ponoka is currently working on a grant application to ATN and TCT for trails adjacent to the planned bridge over the Battle River. The Town has set aside a significant amount of funds for trail development and we hope to be able to make an announcement soon on the progress of this project.
 
- CARTS has been working closely with the Town of Lacombe, the Town of Blackfalds, the County of Lacombe and the County of Red Deer on a subcommittee originally struck to promote the building of the pedestrian bridge over the Blindman River. The committee continues to make progress on the bridge planning, but has also been working on a unique opportunity to build a trail linking these communities. We hope to make an announcement on our progress in the near future.
 

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