Group hopes to develop Cranbrook-Wardner bike route

The new route would develop 22 km of trails on the 36 km Cranbrook-Wardner route. The rest is made up of secondary roads.

Representatives of the Trails Society of B.C. hope to develop a bike and walking trail between Cranbrook and Wardner.

Al Skucas and Oliver Thomae were asking for council support on the project Monday, as a way to expand on the local trail network on behalf of Trails B.C.

Skucas said the project is supported by the Trans Canada Trail, and in the past year the national trail society has funded a feasibility and trail concept plan, which was completed last month.

He said the project has a lot of benefits, in that it promotes health and wellness and also would complement the North Star Rails to Trails route from Cranbrook to Kimberley.

The new route would develop 22 km of trails on the 36 km Cranbrook-Wardner route. The rest is made up of secondary roads. The road would be topped with a material suitable for riding a bike on, though not paved.

“What in effect we are doing here is providing the region with two quality trails,” Skucas said, adding that it would have an increased economic spin-off and keep tourists in the area longer.

The trail begins on 5.5 km of the city’s Isadore Canyon utility corridor. Skucas said the corridor has been used as a recreational path for a few decades.

“With the pending completion of the corridor pipeline upgrades, it presents an opportunity to collaborate on the sources for trail resurfacing,” he said.

Skukas said the society has found volunteers who want to participate on the stewardship of the trail.

Skucas said the area around Grand Forks has a similar trail on top of FortisBC’s high pressure gas line.

Then there is 7.5 km of Crown rail grade up to Pritchard Road. The society will need approval from the province to develop that section.

The third component is 13 km of new trail from Pritchard to Haha Creek Road. The new trail is necessary as that portion of the rail grade is privately owned, and Skucas said the owners have not been interested in allowing bicycle traffic through their property.

There is then 9 km of unused rail grade from Haha Creek Road to Wardner.

Skucas also mentioned the trail funding options. “We do have the support of the Trans Canada Trail, that has been our primary trail funder,” he said. “The provincial government has also been supportive of development of trails on Crown land, as can be seen in the KVR trail, the Columbia western and the Slocan Valley trails.”

There is also the option to apply for funding from Columbia Basin Trust, Skucas said.

The trails group was seeking support as part of a larger application to the province.

“I believe we’ve done our homework on this so we can ensure the viability and the sustainability on such a project,” Skucas said.

Coun. Gerry Warner said the North Star Rails to Trails has been a tremendous success in attracting both locals and tourists.

“It’s been a win-win situation,” Warner said. “Extending (trails) to Wardner shows a potential to do the same thing.”

Warner said that many people, however, don’t know where to access the trails as there aren’t any brochures for the area.

Thomae said that the society has identified the maps as a priority.