BONNYVILLE – The MD of Bonnyville is set to begin the tender process for a 7.5 km Moose Lake trail expansion with the intention of completing the project this year.
The Moose Lake trail expansion is one of three trails identified in a 2021 Recreational Trails Program that includes planned and surveyed locations to build trails to a semi-developed municipal standard.
The Recreational Trail Program also includes a 1.5 km Fort Kent trail and an 8 km Cherry Grove trail, which is the final key segment that would connect the trail to the City of Cold Lake.
Roughly $1 million for the program was carried over from the 2021 budget, with another million allocated to MD trail development in the 2022 budget.
So far, just under $91,000 has been spent on the engineering, surveying and design work for all three trails combined.
However, council heard that completing the Moose Lake trail project to a paved finish standard instead of the semi-developed standard would likely cost the entire $1.8 million trail fund – potentially more with recent spikes in the cost of oil-based products, acknowledged the MD’s Director of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Bowen Clausen.
Clausen also informed council that the municipality is still waiting to hear back from a federal grant application totalling $250,000 that would be put towards the trail enhancement project.
Administration presented council with several possible options for the Recreational Trails Program. One of the options was to pursue the paved standard for the Moose Lake trail expansion requiring the deferral of the Cherry Grove and Fort Kent trails.
While the Moose Lake trail is ready for construction, both the Fort Kent and Cherry Grove trails have outstanding roadblocks that need to be addressed before construction can begin.
Another option was to defer all current and planned municipal trail projects until the completion of the Intermunicipal Trails Master Plan.
Administration suggested council could also proceed with the planned tendering process of the 2021 Moose Lake, Fort Kent, and Cherry Grove trail segments to a semi-developed municipal standard with an option to pave later.
“I'm not ready to be spending that much money on the trail system right now,” said Coun. Josh Crick, noting his preference was to wait for a master trail plan to be developed before moving forward.
“I like trails, trails keep people healthy, as you know it's a safe place for them to (stay active) with their family,” said Coun. Ben Fadeyiw. “I'm afraid if we do this with Moose Lake, is there going to be any money left over for Cherry Grove and Fort Kent? I'm okay with going ahead with it, but my concern is, is there going to be enough money left over for everybody else down the road? I don't feel very confident about that at all.”
Coun. Darcy Skarsen shared his full support in pursuing the Moose Lake trail.
“I'll just add that trails (are) the one thing I know that we do right, and I've heard nothing but good (things) about any of the trails that we built. I see them used all over the place and I can promise you that it'll be a priority of mine going forward,” Skarsen said.
“We'll find money for whatever we need to do. It is what it is, and it's been a priority for me since day one.”
Speaking of both the high capital costs of completing a single project opposed to multiple trails, along with the operational cost of maintaining a new trail system, Reeve Barry Kalinski noted his preference to hold off from the tendering process for now.
“If we go ahead and with this, this might be the last trails we do for quite some time. And that's not fair to the rest of the MD if we put all the money in the trails in one area. So, I would rather look at getting together and making a plan for the future, instead of putting this to tender,” said Kalinski.
The operational cost for maintaining the Moose Lake Trail expansion for the winter and summer months was not available at the time of the meeting. However, Clausen did express it would likely require another staff member to maintain a new trail system just under 8 km long.
“If we get another year like this year, that's almost daily we are out there clearing the trails for use, but we are struggling already trying to keep up just with that,” Clausen told council.
In the winter, it will require snow removal, while in the summer mowing, garbage collection and pothole repairs would have to be done.
In the end, council voted 4 to 3 in favour of proceeding with the tendering process to complete the 2021 Moose Lake trail project to a paved municipal standard. This motion also includes deferring the 2021 Fort Kent and Cherry Grove trail projects.
Voting in favour was Coun. Swigart, Skarsen, Slipchuk and Krywiak, opposed to the motion was Reeve Kalinski along with councillors Fadeyiw and Crick.
If the tender for the Moose Lake trail comes back at $1.8 million or under, the project will be initiated immediately, said CAO Al Hoggan. If the trail project is above what is allocated for the trail, it will be brought back before council for further discussion.