By Trevor Busch
While the Town of Taber has committed to completing the east end of the walking trail to M.D. of Taber Park boundaries in 2016, the M.D. of Taber has informed the town that other infrastructure priorities will take precedence for the municipality this year.
At their Feb. 8 regular meeting, town council voted unanimously (6-0) to approve the tendering of the east trail extension on lands owned and under the jurisdiction of the Town of Taber. Coun. Jack Brewin was absent from the meeting.
In a letter to the town from Reeve Brian Brewin dated Jan. 28, 2016, it was indicated that while the M.D. of Taber has plans to construct a trail through the M.D. of Taber Park in future, no timeline is currently in place for this project.
“We cannot commit at this time to a timeline for construction as other municipal projects, which municipal construction forces are scheduled to complete, are of a higher priority to the M.D. of Taber at this time,” reads Brewin’s letter. “Design of the proposed trail has been completed and the project will remain within the rather large inventory of projects that the M.D. has identified for the future.”
Brewin then went on to decline the M.D. of Taber’s continued involvement in the joint walking trail committee.
“With respect to the continued work of the committee, it is the opinion of council that the design of the project that pertains to the M.D. of Taber, being that portion which traverses the M.D. of Taber Park, has been completed and as such, appointment of municipal staff or council members to a joint committee is deemed to be unnecessary.”
In recent months, the Town of Taber and the M.D. of Taber have been meeting regularly to plan for the construction of a trail to the M.D. of Taber Park. Topics discussed included planning for completion of a full trail loop on Taber’s west side, the level of involvement of the M.D. of Taber in the continued partnership through the joint trail committee, and approval of the preferred layout of the west trail connection.
“I personally was a little bit surprised to see that letter,” said Mayor Henk DeVlieger. “In our combined meetings, they usually wanted updates on how we’re doing the trail, and I though there was an understanding that they were going to do it this year, too, but I guess that’s changed. I think we should still finish it off up to the border line so we’re finished, and then keep a dialogue going on the west side, and then it’s up to the M.D. to decide when they want to do it for the park.”
Regarding the town’s use of a portion of Township Road 10-0’s road allowance for the trail, Brewin invited the Town of Taber to make an application to the M.D. of Taber for a “road license agreement” for this use, while making allowance for the specification of design, construction and operational requirements for the portion of the trail that falls within the right of way.
“Regarding this letter, I was a little disappointed, as this was a unique project where we could work together an collaborate, and so I was a little surprised with this letter, and especially — in one of the recordings of The Taber Times minutes — where they kind of had a little bit more details about the M.D, and Mr. Wallace (M.D. of Taber Coun. Bob Wallace) said ‘there is no need for this close collaboration’,” said DeVlieger. “I was a little disappointed in that. It was a good opportunity for us to start do something together, and instead of every time opposing each other, we could grow together, and work together. I was a little disappointed in that. I just wanted to express that here. Regardless, personally I think we should move forward with our project.”
Currently under consideration for future years, the town also plans to eventually extend the walking trail system out of the M.D. of Taber Park (roughly paralleling Highway 864 while linking aesthetic and recreational considerations in the area) to unite with the existing system within Town of Taber municipal boundaries.
This proposed construction was originally allocated an extra $100,000 in the town’s 2016 capital budget, but was ordered removed following a cost-cutting decision by town council during budget deliberations in late 2015.