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Building trails to paradise

reprinted from Red Deer Advocate (Paige Aarhus) March 18, 2009

Red Deer County hopes several recreational pilot projects will help them move forward with its Open Spaces Master Plan.

Trails connecting Springbrook to Penhold and Spruce View to Dickson, and a Cottonwood day-use area near Dickson Dam, have been touted as the first step towards turning Red Deer County into an outdoorsman's paradise.

"As we go through the implementation of those projects, we will learn the process and carry that knowledge forward," said Alex Taylor, a planner from Dillon Consulting.

Taylor described an intricate network of trails and outdoor recreational areas that could come to fruition under the plan at a Tuesday council meeting.

At the same time, they warned council that it's necessary to take action and gain public support in order to implement the plan.

"It's great to have a plan but we don't want it to end up as a report on a shelf," he said.

The goal is to create a variety of open spaces throughout the county to take advantage of the scenery and existing landmarks of different areas, which would be connected by trails wherever possible.

Taylor identified seven distinct zones within the county that could benefit from developing trail systems and recreational areas, including Alberta Central Railway, Medicine River, Ghost Pine and Boomtown.

"Most of the landscape in the county is very beautiful. We want to work with existing features such as the trestle bridge," said Bev Sandalack, an environmental design professor who helped work on the plan.

Several councillors expressed their enthusiasm for the plan and lamented the lack of trails in rural Alberta.

"What seems like an anomaly to me is the lack of trails in a rural environment, compared to Europe and other areas," said Councillor Reimar Poth.

Poth said the county is leading the province in terms of promoting a trail network, but acknowledged the difficulty lies in getting the public on board.

Mayor Earl Kinsella agreed.

"This is a very long-term project. Only with public support and funding will it ever get done," he said.

Deputy mayor George Gehrke praised the plan and its goals, but argued landowners should approve of any changes to their property.

"People who live on the land don't need a trail, they've got a trail going out their front door . . . People in the neighbourhood are not in favour of 'urbans' stomping through their yard, and they don't want to pay for it," he said.

Planners began consultations for the plan in 2005. Another series of consultations and work on precise implementation strategies will be completed before it returns to council for approval.

Red Deer County Open Spaces Master Plan

News articles related to regional trail development including rail-trails:
Commentary: Preservation Opportunity Not to be Lost
(Innisfail Province & Red Deer Advocate June 2015)
       News article: Red Deer County seeks partners to afford bridge access
(Mountain View Gazette Apr.2012)
       News article: County council looks at bridge as tourist attraction
(Red Deer Advocate April 2012)
       News article: Plans for Mintlaw Bridge waiting on public feedback
(Mountain View Gazette Feb.2012)
       News article: City council adopts river valley plan
(Red Deer Express July 2010)
       News article: Clearwater County calls on province for advice about trail (Red Deer Advocate April 2008)
       Editorial: On the trail of a worthy plan (Red Deer Advocate Sept.2005)

ACR/CPR Mintlaw Steel Trestle

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