Council prioritizes 2020 trails capital projects

After recommendations from the Lacombe and District Recreation, Parks and Culture Board and the Bill Nielsen Trail Society, council reallocated the budgets of three delayed trail capital projects to two higher priority projects for completion this year.

“With this decision, council is demonstrating its commitment to further enhance Lacombe’s strong reputation as a great place to live, work and play,” said Mayor Grant Creasey. “Our trails system offers many environmental and health benefits, and we are proud to work with our partners to build a growing sense of community.”

Council’s decision, during its regular meeting Monday, sees the cancellation of the “Michener Rec Area Wood Chip Path” and the “Wolf Creek Hwy 12 to Fish Pond” projects, with their combined budget of $92,475 in Municipal Sustainability Initiative (MSI) funding reallocated to the “Fairway Heights Willow Ridge Network” for engineered design and construction of the Westview Stairs and associated trail upgrades, for a total of $200,754.

The “Trans Canada NE of Henners” project was also canceled, and the budgeted $516,000 in MSI funding was reallocated to the “Elizabeth Lake 300m Boardwalk” project. This increases the total budget of the project from $271,700 to $787,700.

The upcoming Westview Staircase project will be similar to the above structure located at the Osler Bluff Ski Club in Blue Mountains, ON. (City of Lacombe photo)

The canceled projects will remain part of the city’s trails plan for when further funding becomes available.

“Our recent citizen satisfaction survey determined that residents value our trails among the top nine City services and facilities,” said Director of Community Services Deborah Juch. “Completing the Elizabeth Lake boardwalk and the Westview Stairs projects will increase the City’s recreation service level, and make our trails system more attractive to users.”  

Completing the Fairway Heights Willow Ridge Network with an outdoor stairway as a linkage between trails and neighbourhood walkways is a significant increase to the city’s existing service level.  It will provide trail users from adjacent neighbourhoods with access to a natural recreation area with views overlooking marshlands and Whelp Creek, and can serve as a significant fitness challenge for runners and walkers.

Around Elizabeth Lake, the current partial trail will become a complete, lengthy circuit with multiple access points serving walkers and runners of all ages and fitness abilities. The boardwalk crossing will be a new feature in the community, enhancing the nature experience with an accessible water feature, and is expected to attract visitors from around the region

The Lake Anne/Elizabeth Lake projects were intended for completion with a contribution of both land and construction costs from the adjacent private developer. Constructing the boardwalk and trails in advance of adjacent development will require the project be wholly funded by the municipality, in addition to the contribution of the land by donation.

“The choice to go ahead with the Lake Anne Elizabeth Lake project would not have been available without the generous collaboration of the Bowett family,” said Mayor Creasey.  “They saw the vision of the lake crossing and boardwalk and willingly stepped up to donate part of their land. Clearly, Lacombians like to work together.”

In 2019, city administration reviewed 10 small and large carry-over MSI-funded trail capital projects to formulate options for these initiatives, which were stalled due to expected private development or contributions that did not occur, concurrent municipal projects that were delayed, or projects that were underfunded.

To address underfunding, the city asked its community partners, the Lacombe and District Recreation, Parks and Culture Board and the Bill Nielsen Trail Society, to identify which of the 10 projects to be of the highest priority. Both groups concurred unanimously that completing the Elizabeth Lake Loop, building the Westview Stairs and upgrading the associated nature trail were two projects that would provide the most recreational benefit to the community.