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Trans Canada Trail marker Red Deer

Trail over former CPR bridge Red Deer

Cronquist House Waskasoo Park Red Deer

Trans Canada Trail pavilion Red Deer

Sylvan Lake boat park

Alexander Way Red Deer

Mintlaw ACR trestle

Paul on CN 6060 at Stettler

 





























































































































 


Progress on the Completion of the
Trans Canada Trail in Central Alberta

revised July 2012
 

boats at Bower Ponds Red DeerThe concept of a regional trails network in Central Alberta can be traced back to at least 1987 with the development of the very popular Waskasoo Park and its extensive trail system in Red Deer. Other communities also developed municipal recreational trail systems soon afterwards, including Innisfail, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake with several other communities at that time planning trails for the future. There was also a rural trail built linking Bentley with Gull Lake along Highway 12.
 
old steel train trestle on Red Deer RiverAround 1994, a group of individuals, with support from Alberta TrailNet, proposed a trail linking Red Deer with Sylvan Lake using the abandoned Alberta Central Railway (a division of Canadian Pacific) right of way. The proposal met with a great deal of resistance from adjoining landowners who believed that they had first right of refusal to purchase those lands. There was also considerable question about the viability of using the railway trestle across the river. At the time, Canadian Pacific was hesitant in selling the land in case they needed it in the future.
 
Meanwhile, around 1992, the idea of the Trans Canada Trail had originated with the Canada 125 Corporation, the organization set up to celebrate confederation's 125th birthday. They provided the initial funding for the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, which launched in 1994.
 
The foundation spent the first year establishing itself with user-related organizations throughout Canada, such as Alberta TrailNet which is the Alberta representative organization and secured the support of several sponsors including Canada Trust, Canada Post, Chrysler Canada and TSN/RDS. Since then, other sponsors have contributed to the promotion and building of the trail, including Bell Canada, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Geographic, Raleigh Bicycles, Canadian Tourism Commission, and others.
 
The first sections of the Trans Canada Trail officially opened in 2000.
 
trails in LacombeEarly in 1998, a preliminary group of individual Central Albertans representing various agencies including the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, Parkland Community Planning Services, Alberta TrailNet, Red Deer Visitor and Convention Bureau, Normandeau Cultural and Natural History Society, and Red Deer River Naturalists, came together to form the Central Alberta Regional Trails Initiative.
 
This group proposed the creation of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Master Plan project to identify the issues, concerns, support, and ideas regarding the designation and development of recreational trail linkages in rural Central Alberta.
 
McKenzie Trails Waskasoo Park Red DeerThe project's budget was $65,000, of which $43,500 was designated for the hiring of Deb Comfort for one year (Sept. 1998-Aug. 1999) to co-ordinate the development of the plan. Funding was supplied by the Red Deer & District Community Foundation ($22,000), Lottery Funding ($41,000) and the City of Red Deer ($2,000). The city also contributed office space and equipment for the project. Funding applications on behalf of the project were submitted by the Normandeau Cultural and Natural History Society.
 
The original terms of reference for the project proposal and funding applications were as follows:
 
   1. To ensure public participation and input as a vital component of all stages of the project;
   2. Complete a Master Plan and Development Strategy for a regional trail and green space corridor system;
   3. Facilitate the designation of a local regional trail system, through the development of a comprehensive concept plan, which incorporates the Trans Canada Trail;
   4. Produce guidelines for standards, users, support and costs for the development of the regional trail system;
   5. Complete a map inventory of all existing trail linkages within the project area from which regional trail alternatives can be planned;
   6. Identify the Central Alberta trail component to be immediately designated as the Trans Canada Trail;
   7. Identify possible range of users including information on public access, insurance, liability and legal issues related to trail development;
   8. Be a unified and consistent voice in promoting the Regional Trails Initiative.
 
trails in InnisfailThe initial project study area was broadly defined as an area from Innisfail east to the Red Deer River, north along the river, west through the villages of Alix, Tees, Clive, the towns of Lacombe and Bentley, and south to Sylvan Lake and Innisfail.
 
With several other communities wishing to participate in the project, the area was expanded to include the communities of Bowden, Elnora, Mirror, College Heights, Markerville, Dickson and Benalto -- roughly the area encompassing the Counties of Red Deer and Lacombe.
 
trail in SpringbrookA regionally representative Steering Committee of 70 people was identified at a meeting in Springbrook in October 1998 that would act as a guiding group for the process and progress of the ambitious project. An invitation by both the Mayor of Red Deer and Reeve of Red Deer County, outlining the project and its purpose, was sent to all municipalities, known recreation boards, and previously involved interest groups.
 
A smaller management sub-committee set out to create a society that would continue to act as a regionally representative group concerned with the future designation and development process of trails in the region. In January 1999, this sub-committee became the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS).
 
Cronquist House Waskasoo Park Red DeerThere was considerable support and excitement from the various municipalities, organizations, interest groups and individuals involved with the project, including Red Deer County, Lacombe County and Central Alberta Regional Museums Network.
 
A series of five public meetings were held throughout the project area, including Sylvan Lake, Innisfail, Delburne, Pine Lake and Lacombe. A sixth and final meeting was held in Red Deer in June 1999 identifying trends and preliminary recommendations based on public feedback.
 
trails in Sylvan LakeMost of the initial feedback was generated from residents of towns and villages rather than from rural areas. Some of the publicity implied that identified conceptual routes were proposed for immediate development, some going through private land, creating great concern, alarm and even a feeling of betrayal by rural residents.
 
Many positive outcomes resulted from the process, including the identification and feasibility of future potential trail routes, the establishment of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society as the collective voice for the promotion of trail designation and/or trail development, the compilation of a map inventory of existing and potential future trails for the project area, provision of public information regarding the benefits of trails, the raising of community awareness and support of regional trails, and the identification of the area's historic routes and sites, community points of interest and natural areas.
 
former rail pedestrian bridge Red DeerDuring the first few years after the final report was released, a number of individuals and municipalities grew impatient and frustrated with the slow progress of trail development in the region. A temporary loss of interest was noticeable with the rural municipalities as they became increasingly influenced by the negative reactions of a handful of rural taxpayers who were threatened by and therefore opposed to rural trails. There was also a feeling that trails would only benefit urban folks.

Meanwhile, major strides were made in the larger urban centres of the region and urban trail networks became the focus of civic pride, often attracting rural people to those centres in order to enjoy the trails. Red Deer took an extra step in converting a historic railway bridge into part of the Waskasoo Park and Trans Canada Trail system.
Trans Canada Trail pavilion Bower Ponds Red Deer
The Trans Canada Trail pavilion at Red Deer's Bower Ponds was officially dedicated in 2005. Other communities having TCT designation include Innisfail, Lacombe and Ponoka with more pending.
 
At the same time, a stalwart handful of individuals persisted and persevered to establish rural linkages in Central Alberta. The Society maintained a close relationship with Alberta TrailNet and expanded its area to include Ponoka.
 
Trans Canada Trail pavilion Red DeerWith restricted volunteer resources, the Society has concentrated on the establishment of the missing links of the north-south Trans Canada Trail corridor between Penhold and Ponoka with the original goal of completing it by 2010. Although considerable progress has been made, the revised goal is to have it completed by 2017 and extended south towards Innisfail and Bowden.

In recent months, several smaller communities and the counties of Red Deer, Lacombe and Ponoka have taken a proactive role in planning for future trail corridors linking communities and points of interest within their jurisdictions. Most new residential developments have included plans for trails as public surveys have indicated that more people want trails in their neighbourhoods to enhance a healthier lifestyle.

Blindman River bridge built 2010Two major pedestrian bridges, one across the Blindman River near Blackfalds and the other across the Battle River at Ponoka, were completed in 2010. Lacombe County has completed a TCT link between the Blindman River bridge and the south boundary of Blackfalds and plans to complete the rural TCT link between Blackfalds and Lacombe in 2012. Meanwhile Ponoka and Ponoka County have completed a TCT link that includes an equestrian component between Ponoka and the Lacombe County boundary. Lacombe County plans to build the link between Lacombe and the north boundary of Ponoka County in 2013-14.
 
A section of Trans Canada Trail south of Springbrook was completed in 2010 but has not progressed until an agreement is reached with the town of Penhold for a connection. North of Springbrook, several options are being examined including the use of a portion of the abandoned Alberta Central Railway, possibly including the Mintlaw trestle. The bridge and right of way were purchased by Red Deer County from Canadian Pacific Railway in 1999 for $1. A study completed in early 2012 indicated that the right of way and bridge will eventually be part of a regional trail system but it will not happen until funding and a trail operator are established.

A steering committee has now been set up that includes Alberta TrailNet, Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS), Red Deer County, and the towns of Penhold, Innisfail and Bowden to examine options for the Trans Canada Trail between Penhold and Bowden.

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