By Greg Price
A new society has been formed with its main focus being to help enhance the outdoor recreation experience in the Taber area.
Trail 77 Society (Club) made a presentation to the Taber Recreation Board at its Feb. 6 meeting to showcase its vision to help construct, maintain, and use a network of sustainable dirt trails down in the coulee, north of Taber, for use by locals and visitors.
The organization made a video presentation to the recreation board with commentary from Steve Van Geest, president of Trail 77 and society member Marten DeVlieger.
“The Trail 77 Club consists of about nine board members who consist of a broad range of activities where they participate in, from biking, running, walking, and hiking. We want to make this a trail hub that is accessible to all types of sport,” said DeVlieger in the video presentation.
“The whole idea of the trail network is that it is free recreation for anybody, whether you are a walker who wants to get away from town and see some nature or if you are into competitive biking or running where different events can be hosted in the area,” added Van Geest.
The trail system which Trail 77 wants to help build, would be to make it safer. This would included signage on every trail, labeling them to each risk factor.
“A green trail is for beginner people, a blue trail for middle to advanced, and black for advanced riders or runners,” said Van Geest.
Trail 77 Society has joined the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). It is a national group which focuses on trail building for bikers and runners.
“They work a lot with municipalities and groups like us who are trying to deal with landowners like yourself, with towns and M.D.s. Their groups follows certain standards when building and maintaining trails. Members of our group will be taking courses to follow these standards,” said Van Geest. “IMBA also supplies insurance for groups like ourselves for a build day or a group ride where members of its club are covered, so that takes the liability off the town or the M.D.”
DeVlieger added an enhanced trail system would enhance the recreational opportunities for Taber and M.D. residents, while also drawing more outdoor enthusiasts to the area for recreational opportunities and bring tourism dollars to the area.
“We think we could bring in bike races eventually, running races that have already been done in the past (Taber Tuff 25), walking things, all kinds of recreational opportunities. It will not only bring people to town, but it will bring economic benefit to town with stores and restaurants will do better,” said DeVlieger.
The trail system as is, has already helped augment various physical education programs in schools.
They include Taber Christian School which has a bike club and ACE Place Learning Centre and if Trail 77 is granted permission to work on the trailsystem, has volunteered labour in building and maintenance into their outdoor ed and physical education programming. Between just Taber Christian School and ACE Place, 125 students have already used the trail network.
“I’ve been in Taber for about 30 years, and I’ve been taking students down to ride in the coulees on mountain bikes for about 20 years on a very regular basis. Some of the changes that have happened down there over the last few years with the Trout Pond and some other things, have been fantastic for my school,” said Brock Campbell, principal at ACE place Learning Centre prior to the video presentation. “We don’t have a gym and we try and utilize the local resources as much as we can multiple times per week. We very much appreciate what has happened.”
Trail 77 Society has started work on putting all the Taber-area trails on the app Trailforks. It allows for people from outside the community to see what kind of trails the area has to offer.
“It also has a safety aspect to it. The app itself has an emergency button you can push if say anything happened to you, like an accident, spraining an ankle or something,” said Van Geest.
Trail 77 Society stressed to the Taber Recreation Board that it wants to get into a partnership with the town, where they are not trying to re-invent the wheel with the trail system the Taber area already has, but rather enhance it in a single-track system. Tank 77 Society asked the recreation board for a recommendation to town council to grant permission for Trail 77 volunteers to go on town land to further develop the trails to enhance enjoyment and safety. Also, the society is asking for $5,000 a year for four years, to go primarily to signage.
“We want to make the trails better and safer. Here’s people who have said, I want to go biking, but I can’t find these trails you’re talking about. We can get a lot more usage out of the trails if we raise awareness that they’re there,” said DeVlieger after the video presentation. “There’s a lot of opportunity out there, and according to your (Recreation Master Plan) it’s a very high priority). We are utilizing trails already there and making them safe.”
While the vast majority of the trail system in question is on town and M.D. land, recreation board members did note a couple of slivers that were privately owned which they highlighted the group would have to get permission from them. Also, there may be a point where the Town of Taber jurisdiction ends and Alberta Environment begins.
“What you guys presented here with your dream in what you’re trying to provide, I think is phenomenal,” said Louie Tams, Taber Recreation Board member and town councillor. “The greatest used recreational facility the Town of Taber has, has been our walking trails. Because it’s free and everybody can participate at whatever speed they want to.”
Taber Recreation Board accepted Trail 77’s presentation as information and supported their initiative unanimously to be presented to council on Feb. 24.