ST. PAUL – The County of St. Paul and Lakeland Cross Country Ski Club (LCCSC) will continue to develop Westcove Municipal Recreation Area (WMRA) as a Nordic skiing facility under a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA).
According to the JVA agreement that began in 2021, the County and LCCSC agreed to develop the Westcove area as an “Alberta Nordic ski tourist destination,” along with being a Nordic ski centre for the “use and enjoyment of residents” of the County and the Town of St. Paul.
The JVA is a three-year agreement that will dissolve on Sept. 30, 2024.
During the regular County of St. Paul council meeting on Oct. 11, the LCCSC asked for an annual operating grant to be included on the JVA.
President of the LCCSC Pierre Lamoureux said, “we’re getting some good traction” out at Westcove, which he surmised must be because “we were in our first full year of operation, last year.” He added that while “we had fewer number of [club] members,” the WMRA saw close to 1,000 people who skied at Westcove last winter.
Lamoureux reasoned that the annual operating grant will help with the LCCSC’s operating costs as expenditures like insurance and fuel are going up. “That’s why we have slightly higher numbers in our [operating costs] projections for 2022-23 for Westcove,” he said.
According to Lamoureux, LCCSC is also working to develop the Main Street signage of the town.
“We see a nice visual impact of a sign that says you can go to the left and go to one side, or you can turn right and go to the other,” he said. “So, that’s the kind of impact that I think is really interesting for both the Town and the County where people can say, ‘Okay, this area is really developed nicely as a skiing destination.”
He also said LCCSC is planning to invest in grooming equipment that will improve the quality of the ski trails.
“So, in essence, we want to consolidate our trail network at [WMRA],” he said, explaining that consolidating the trail network at WMRA will allow the LCCSC to start planning next year and set up a permanent trail network.
He added the plan has significant costs attached to it, and “we’ll see what we can do with our other grant applications, donations, and membership.”
Lamoureux said LCCSC’s operating costs come from membership, donations, and grants “like the grant we’re asking from the councils of the Town of St. Paul and the County of St. Paul.”
Coun. Maxine Fodness raised concerns on how to mitigate potential liability if, for example, snowmobilers coming in who may not be aware of concrete barriers or fences due to low visibility as a result of snow. She said people may also be injured running into barbed wire fences.
Lamoureux said, “We’re very pleased at the degree of cooperation we had from the snowmobile community last year.” The County’s Public Works is also taking steps to put up barriers at the north end of the park and rail fencing.
Other safety measures include public education.
Lamoureux referred to item six under the JVA agreement, which states the County and the LCCSC will cooperate in public education and public relations to promote “Westcove as a Nordic ski centre where unauthorized snowmobile access is not allowed.”
“The other part of the answer is that we register the County and the Town for that matter as hosts under our Nordic Canada Liability Insurance,” he said, which is already a given. Lamoureux added other measures to reduce hazard are being explored, like setting up fluorescent reflectors on barriers.
According to LCCSC, the funding from club membership is not enough to help sustain the operating costs for the club at Westcove. Currently, LCCSC’s membership fee for adults is $50, and according to LCCSC, $20 of that goes toward insurance.
“We’ve always seen membership as not a source of operating fund… we want to make [membership fees] affordable for families,” he said. Many of the programs offered by the club, such as ski coaching, are offered by volunteers. LCCSC has previously also applied for Canada Summer Jobs grants to hire staff, such as a leisure activities coordinator.
A motion was made to provide LCCSC a one-time operating grant of $3,000 for the 2022-23 season. The motion was defeated.
However, council agreed to supply and deliver pickled sand at a cost of $325, signage installation at the cost of $670, six days of mulching at about $6,700, and labour for signing at about $480. The total cost of the work-in-kind by the County for the LCSS is valued at $9,125.