BONNYVILLE – The Iron Horse Trail’s 10-year plan could be expanded to include the stretch of trail from Abilene Junction to Cold Lake.
The Riverland Recreational Trail Society (RRTS), the non-profit group that manages the Iron Horse Trail, recently received a grant from Trans Canada Trail to complete a 10-year strategic plan from Waskatenau to Heinsburg. The group would like to include the portion of trail from Abilene Junction, southeast of Ashmont and the centre of the three trail branches, to Cold Lake.
RRTS has requested the $20,000 cost be split between the Town and MD of Bonnyville and the City of Cold Lake.
Bonnyville town council voted in favour of covering roughly $6,600, taken from the general operating reserves, during their Aug. 25 meeting if the city and MD also approve a contribution.
“The cost of the strategic plan that they’re doing right now would be $35,000, instead of $53,000 if they did it at a later date,” explained director of finance Renee Stoyles.
The RRTS is working with RC Strategies Inc. on the project, and completed an assessment from July 12 to 14 from Heinsburg to Waskatenau on trail conditions, surfacing issues, signage, maintenance, tourism, visitor opportunities, and future development.
During this time, RC Strategies pointed out that it would only allow for a partial picture of what needed to be done because the Abilene to Cold Lake section wasn’t included.
In a letter to the town, RRTS president Marvin Bjornstad explained how important it was to include the entire trail in the 10-year plan.
“There are so many great development opportunities being missed, including the staging areas in both Cold Lake and Bonnyville, Anshaw Historic Site, the Beaver River Trestle, and much more,” he wrote, adding they’re also in the process of applying for a Community Initiatives Program (CIP) grant but won’t find out until summer 2021 if they're approved or not.
“If RRTS received the grant, then a portion of the money would be refunded to the three municipalities.”
As part of the strategic plan, the RRTS launched an online survey in early August to get feedback from users on what they wanted to see that would improve the Iron Horse Trail experience.
Mayor Gene Sobolewski was in favour of the recommendation to provide the funds if the city and MD agrees to as well.
“I think this is something that’s good. If you’re getting a strategic plan on a massive trail like that and a gem in our region, you don’t just want to do the south or the north leg,” he said. “I’m all in favour of moving forward with that and being part of having the north trail as part of this as well because I think it’s money well spent.”
Coun. Ray Prevost agreed, “I would hate to have that part of the trail left out of this important 10-year strategic plan, it just wouldn’t make sense. Especially when they’re right here anyways.”