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Rural pathway proposed between Beiseker and Irricana, but landowners cool on the idea
Published Friday, May 25, 2018 1:07PM MDT
Last Updated Friday, May 25, 2018 6:36PM MDT
A group of rural residents in Beiseker and Irricana say they have the land and the money to transform an abandoned rail line into a vital link between the two communities, but the local government needs to be convinced on the idea too.
The Meadowlark Trail Committee has proposed that an old rail line, running for about 10 km, should be made into a formal pathway that will be perfect for families and bicyclists.
The CPR originally built the line in 1910 and it was actively used until the 1990s when it was removed and the land donated to the Trans Canada Trail.
The parcel was then transferred to Alberta TrailNet in 2005 and that’s where it’s stayed since.
The society says that now is the time to make the trail a reality but there is a lot of work ahead.
“Right now, there’s rail rock on it and it’s not meant to be compacted together so if you do go for a bike ride, you’re going to be feeling the effects of it for days, if you can even get very far. You can go for a nice family walk but to go for a bike ride, it needs a nicer top,” said Heidi Hagel, with the Meadowlark Trail Committee.
Hagel says that having a groomed trail between the two communities will have a lot of benefits too.
“There are a lot of students in Irricana that go to Beiseker because there isn’t a school in Irricana. It would also be nice for kids to go to their friends without having to ask mom or dad. They can hop on a bike. That’s something that kids out in rural communities, if their friends live in a small town nearby; it’s only if mom and dad can get them there.”
Jeannette Richter, another member of the society, says that they have the funding in place but Rocky View County will need to get on board with the idea if it’s to progress any further.
“What’s holding us back right now is, as you can see, if you were to get out further, it’s a rural designation. It was only to be used for railroads and rural use and now we’re asking the County to re-designate it into an area where people can be on the trail and there can be non-motorized vehicles like bicycles and so on on the trail.”
Richter also says that they will have to take into account the concerns of rural landowners, the same people that ended up shelving the proposal in 2010 due to a number of concerns.
“We have to listen to what they’re saying, to respect their concerns. It would be like if you lived in the city and the city just decided that they were going to put a pathway in your backyard. Well, that would change the way you operate in your backyard. It’s the same with the ranchers and farmers here.”
One landowner, Matthew Fasoli, lives right nearby the proposed trail and says that there would need to be a lot of infrastructure in place to make the pathway a reasonable idea.
“We need to have parking on both ends of the trail. My driveway is almost the midpoint and the end acts as a parking lot. We also don’t have any facilities for people to be using washrooms or litter collection for any sort of garbage or pollution.”
He also says that there are maintenance and safety issues to consider as well, particularly because the pathway runs through a lot of farmland.
“We’ve got guys that are spraying herbicides and pesticides and it’s going to drift over into the trail users. Who is going to mitigate the traffic and say when people are allowed on the trail and not allowed on the trail?”
The trail will cost over $500,000 to grade and smooth and both Hagel and Richter say there is a lot of support to see the project built.
“People are really excited. They didn’t know this opportunity was here and they didn’t know that the trail existed. It’s been here, waiting to be made into a trail for 20 years now,” Hagel says.
Rocky View County will be meeting in July to decide on the rezoning application.
If approved, the society says work could begin in the fall with installing bridges along the route and it’s estimated that the Meadowlark Trail would be fully completed by 2021.
(With files from Kevin Green)