By Trevor Busch
The M.D. of Taber has requested clarification of their level of involvement and financial obligation with regard to town plans to eventually complete a full walking trail loop.
Through a joint cost-sharing arrangement between the M.D. of Taber and the Town of Taber, the town’s walking trail system will be extended into the M.D. of Taber Park in 2016 from its current terminus north of the town cemetery.
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.
At a meeting of the Joint Municipal District of Taber and Town Walking Trail Committee on Dec. 18, 2015, the matter of the west trail connection was raised for discussion.
Currently, three routes are under consideration for where this portion of the trail could be established, and are located predominately on town land within the M.D. of Taber.
“At the last meeting of our committee, it was brought up the consideration to go to the west of the highway,” said planning director Cory Armfelt, speaking at town council’s Jan. 11 meeting. “The M.D. of Taber was somewhat concerned in regards to what implication, what they would be looking at, if they continued their participation on this, for the remaining trail on the west side. So they wanted a letter clarifying the town’s perspective, and the funding of the trail, the planning of the trail, and the expectation for their participation if they were to stay on the committee.”
On Dec. 18, M.D. of Taber representatives on this committee requested a letter be provided from the Town of Taber to the M.D. of Taber with regard to continued participation in trail planning subsequent to the engineering and tendering of the east trail linkage from the end of the town’s asphalt trail to the M.D. of Taber Park.
“We’re proposing that the trail run along Township Road 100, which is Huckleberry Road, on the north side,” continued Armfelt. “So they’re looking for a formal request, so to speak, about that. We’ve met in early consultation meetings with one of the landowners that would be impacted, and Alberta Transportation. We’re now moving that forward with the M.D. with a formal letter, asking to be notified with a request to go on the north side of Township Road 100.”
Requested areas of clarification included expectations of participation, identification and vision for financing the west trail component, and the establishment of a route along Township Road 100.
“The M.D. was particularly concerned with staying on the committee and discussing the west component, that you were implicitly putting them into a position of financial support for the west trail component, and they did not want to be in that position. That was made crystal clear,” said Armfelt.
Commenting on town council’s decision to remove $100,000 from the 2016 capital budget that had been allocated for the extended project, Mayor Henk DeVlieger went on to suggest construction of much of the final leg of the walking trail loop could be provided through community donation.
“It all comes down to the dollars and cents, and I know in the last budget we pulled $100,000 out, (and) limited it to the $100,000. Andy (Coun. Prokop) kept me a little bit informed on the project, and I think the only way this will happen is if it becomes a community donation project at the time, considering the financial constraints we have.”
“I’ve been talking to a number of businesses, and people that are interested. Since most of the route is fairly easy on flat land, we’re just dealing with coming back up the hill from the river, and crossing the highway close to Huckleberry Road. Those are two items that have to be professionally designed, but the rest is — as far as I’m concerned — easy sailing, even if 50 or 100 years down the road we have to move it because different plans are made. I think that most of it could be donated.”
Coun. Andrew Prokop, who sits as a council-appointed representative on the joint town-M.D. walking trail committee, indicated the group had unanimously selected Option A regarding routing as the most attractive of the three options that have been presented.
“I’ve walked it myself, and it’s fairly scenic,” said DeVlieger. “You go along the fish pond — which I think is under-utilized, there might be some options there, too. Stock it and get grants for it — I know there’s one for young people. And then you walk along the coulee all the way to Huckleberry. It’s a beautiful view.”
Coun. Joe Strojwas threw his immediate support behind selecting a routing option which would incorporate the community fish pond.
“Conservation Alberta does have a grant for stocking trout ponds and doing that type of thing. So there are some funds that can help. If we have a walking path through there, we can utilize some of those grants, and there are monies available there, too. That would be great if you could walk in there, and kids could fish there. That would really enhance that whole area for recreation.”
Coun. Randy Sparks suggested it would not be appropriate to seek any further financial contributions from the M.D. of Taber for an extended project in future.
“I don’t think we should be asking the M.D. for any money, or any contributions to this project. This is a town project, this is a town walking trail, and the M.D. is contributing going down into their park and doing that, and I think that’s all we should require of the M.D. at this point. If they want to pitch in on their own for something in future, that’s fine, but they’ve pitched in and done their due diligence with this project, and I think that’s all the town should be requiring of them.”
Strojwas sided with Sparks in favour of not seeking further financial contributions from the M.D. of Taber to complete the project.
“I’d like to see the existing M.D.-Taber joint committee stay as a group for consultation for both parts, but being that this westerly portion is a Town of Taber project, I don’t think we should ask for any funds, other than a commitment as far as allocating the actual pathway through, so they’re onside with all of that as far as financial commitment,” said Coun. Joe Strojwas. “As a town, we’ve got the resources and the inputs for them to do that. That way, therefore, they have an input as far as going through there to the M.D. property.”
Sparks was also an advocate for community support in completing a final leg of the walking trail loop.
“The town of Taber is a good town, and people do pitch in and buck up and do their thing, and I think a lot of this project can be done through volunteerism, and through public works, digging that trail. I know it can be completed as financially responsible as we possibly can be. And it’ll be real nice, and we’re well on our way here.”
A fully completed walking trail loop could open up enhanced recreational opportunities for the community, according to DeVlieger.
“If we completed this whole trail, we could attract runs, and all kinds of activities, marathons. I think there will be a lot of possibilities to use this trail for all kinds of activities. It’s the cheapest sport you can do. When you walk through it, it doesn’t cost you a penny — except your energy.”
Coun. Rick Popadynetz, often a supporter on council of recreational projects, expressed his opinion the Town of Taber was already two decades behind the times in moving to complete a full walking trail loop.
“I think these trails should have been done 20 years ago. I lived in Lethbridge for a while, and their trail system is unbelievable. It’s a shame we didn’t have red shale trails 20 years ago when I was riding my bike through the coulees, and hitting cactus and everything else. The community has come to me, and their number one thing is these trails, get the trails done. We’re totally under-utilizing the fact that we’re right alongside a river. We have some amazing views, and it’s totally under-utilized.”
At their Jan. 11 meeting, council voted unanimously (6-0) to direct administration to write letter to the M.D. of Taber regarding the west walking trail project, including expectations of participation, with no monetary requirement from the M.D. of Taber, and the establishment of a route along Huckleberry Road/Township Road 100. Coun. Jack Brewin was absent from the meeting.