A system of cycling trails is being proposed for the Crowsnest Pass and Municipal District (MD) of Ranchland.
Wade Abeli, who is working with Community Futures Crowsnest Pass as a consultant, told Ranchland council June 7 that there is a project underway for a 140 kilometres mountain bike trail development through the Pass and north into Ranchland.
“The original plan was a tourism cluster development,” Abeli said.
The project is a rural diversification initiative to promote non-motorized recreation within the Crowsnest corridor, Abeli told council, which will have a spin-off of economic increases for area businesses.
The trail system, which will include 10 looped mountain bike paths and a mountain bike skills park, are being given a rubber stamp of approval by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA), which is being involved in the development of the trail master plan.
The plan also includes an epic trail. Only four epic trails exist in Canada, and these draw riders from all over North America.
“Epic trails attract a certain kind of rider — the cream of the crop — the ones who tend to stay and spend their money within the community as well,” he said. “Having an epic trail would be a very large drawing card.”
The IMBA has recognized international guidelines, Abeli told council.
“Their basic premise is everything is built to sustainable standards, with minimal impact to the environment” Abeli said.
The plans and maps are available on www.ridecrowsnest.com.
“Where we’re at today is we have a draft master plan in place that the IMBA has developed for us, as well as a group of proposed trails,” said Abeli. “We are now in the referral process.”
Alberta Sustainable Resources Development (SRD) and Alberta Tourism have been given the master plan, and various departments of SRD are looking at it. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Alberta Environment are not involved in the process, because it isn’t applicable, he said. The Nature Conservancy has said it was not compatible with their view of land management.
“A few of the trails that are proposed in this plan are within the MD of Ranchland. None of them are on private lands, though,” said Abeli. “We thought it was very appropriate to approach you and get comments.”
The trail development will not use existing cutlines, accesses or trails, because of the requirement of width, slope and grade, and will built by hand.
Four summer students have been hired, working by shovel and chain saws, building the trail and cutting small saplings and deadwood.
The initial focus is the ski hill in Blairmore.
“It’s central and mostly private land, owned by Devon and under recreational lease to the municipality,” said Abeli.
A skills park will also be built at Blairmore.
The second area of development will be at the Allison/Chinook area, he said, which fits in with the forestry land use zone. This network will be a prime venue for hosting provincial or national cross-country races.
He told council that in meeting with Tourism and Parks, everyone seemed very comfortable with the idea of the cluster trails, which fit with the planned recreational land use of the area.
The trail system will also double as a snow shoe path, he said, giving it an additional use in an alternate season.
The trails would be able to be used for bike races, which require a single track.
“IMBA designs everything on a stacked loop system,” he said.
Cyclists will have to ride through easy trails to access intermediate, then hard trails and expert trails, and finally the epic trail. All trails have an average grade of 10 per cent or less, with a maximum grade of 15 per cent, and will be sloped to shed water easily, he said. The master plan states that a maximum grade of 30 per cent is allowed on the expert trails.
“There will be constant grade reversals so water doesn’t have an ability to get any momentum,” he said.
The easier trails will be natural surface, using natural mineral soil in the work area or imported mineral soil and material, but the more advanced trails will use natural mineral soil.
Council told Abeli that one of the Ranchland mandates is to reduce environmental impacts and reduce off-highway vehicle (OHV) usage in the area.
“To be honest, the number one question is how are you going to keep dirt bikes off it,” said Abeli. “ATVs aren’t going to be a problem because it’s not wide enough.”
However, he noted that it would be almost impossible to keep OHVs off the trails, and that it would ultimately be an enforcement issue.
“The odd quader will try it.”
Abeli said they have also been asked who will be responsible for maintaining the networks.
“We will be building a sustainability plan. The thought right now is that the local club (United Riders of Crowsnest) will adopt this process and keep it moving forward, in that we are looking at that as a volunteer-based program and it will flourish or die,” he said.
Ag fieldman Carla Bick asked about the viability of the network if there was nobody to maintain it.
“At the moment, Community Futures carries the liability,” he said. “This is a slight vulnerability if the club folds and there’s trails that have been developed.”
Although 140 kilometres have been proposed, it is not certain if all the network will receive approval for all of the proposed trails.
A trail can cost between $5,000-$30,000 per kilometre, he said.
“It’s pretty safe to say that the project is around $2 million. We don’t have that, not even close.”
To draw riders from Calgary, they will need to have about four hours of trail ridership time, he said.
“If we end up with 100 kilometres of trail built, we could be servicing hundreds, if not thousands, on the trail network,” he said. “If you build it, they will come.”