Work has begun on a new section of the Trans Canada Trail between Cranbrook and Wardner.
The crushed gravel surfaced trail will follow the Isadore Canyon trail to Mayook, then continue along an abandoned rail corridor to Wardner Provincial Park beside the Kootenay River, with a bypass around private land in Mayook.
A connector trail will link the Cranbrook to Wardner trail with the rest stop on Highway 3 in Mayook known as the Ramparts Lake rest area.
The project is being led by trail enthusiasts in the community, said Al Skucas, a Cranbrook-based Trails BC director.
“It’s a grassroots movement. With this kind of major project, there is normally some level of government handling this. But this is grassroots and it’s important to engage volunteers and community partners.”
A special committee of Cranbrook, Kimberley, Wardner and Mayook residents is working on developing the trail.
With funding from Trans Canada Trail, a feasibility study has been conducted by volunteer trail supporters to design the trail and undertake engineering drawings for small bridges and cattleguards.
Columbia Basin Trust is contributing to the project through the Community Initiatives program.
The Trans Canada Trail Foundation will provide significant funding, but that depends on a higher level of community support.
“Although we have not reached this year’s goal of $90,000 of matching funding, we are hoping with the support of our local communities and support groups that those additional funds can be raised,” said Skucas.
A team of volunteers from the Kootenay Orienteering Club began the first work on the Cranbrook to Wardner trail last week.
On Wednesday, June 4, the trail enthusiasts walked the trail from the Isadore Canyon trailhead to Pritchard Road, placing flags along the trail’s route.
“It’s an important first step to evaluate the whole project,” said Skucas.
The trail has been broken down into three phases over three years.
In phase one, which is set to take shape this year, the rail grade on Crown land will be improved and resurfaced from Cranbrook’s north-eastern edge to Pritchard Road. The connector trail to Ramparts Lake rest stop will also be built.
In phase two, the rail grade from Ha Ha Creek Road to Wardner will be resurfaced.
Phase three, in 2016, will see the Mayook bypass completed and final completion of the trail.
Once the Cranbrook to Wardner trail is complete, and the Rotary Way connector from the strip to the North Star Rails to Trails at McPhee Road is also complete, it will be possible to travel 70 kilometres from Kimberley to Cranbrook along the Rails to Trails, connect past the Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce, and onto the Cranbrook to Wardner trail to the Kootenay River.
The Trans Canada Trail Foundation is pleased to see work begin on this section of trail, said Gay Decker, director of communications.
“We have this bold 2017 goal to complete our trail in time for the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation. So seeing that our trail partners are in the process of creating new sections of trail emboldens us,” she said.
The Trans Canada Trail has always been a grassroots project, Decker went on.
“We wouldn’t have this trail without community support and community involvement.”