By: George Longden, chair of the Grand Forks Trails Society
So, as you can guess, I am going to write about trails. Some of you may be familiar with this summer’s trail construction inside Grand Forks, and but most are not aware of the developments on the Trans Canada Trail, also known as the Spirit 2010 Trail across the region.
First, to the construction this summer, scheduled for completion in November 2010. I believe that the City of Grand Forks is on the cusp of a new era. It is true that the BMX track is in City Park, and the groups of yellow-shirted road bikers are now a common sight. Less well known, but just as active is the Grand Forks Mountain Biking Club. The skate park also gets a lot of use by BMX bikes, even though it was designed for skateboarders.
But for the first time Grand Forks will have dedicated lanes for bike users, which will be highly visible for motoring traffic. This may change the lives for those who are used to having automobile use as being paramount on city streets.
You may have seen the signs on the highway - they are the first indication of the coming transformation. Kettle River drive will have bike lanes, as will 73 Avenue behind Perley School. The major work is done -- all that remains is the painting of the lanes. There will be bike lanes on Boundary Drive from the Trans Canada Trail to Highway 3 and sidewalks on 72 Avenue as well as 11 Street.
Wait, there’s more. The ‘cow path’ that used to connect 72 Avenue with 73Avenue is gone but in its place will be a brand new connection at 9 Street. The workers on the project call it ‘the Intestine’ since it curves with switchbacks up the hill to the top.
The real starting point for all this development though, was the Black Train Bridge. Through the actions of city council and city staff, the bridge and the old rail grade between Kettle River Drive and Highway 3 were acquired from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 2008. In 2009, the bridge was decked by the 39 Combat Engineers of Canadian Forces, and a railing was installed last fall. As a part of the new development, a paved, gently sloping sidewalk will connect the bridge to 66 Avenue close to the new community gardens – Hanneke’s Place.
The other and more visible section will be the paving of the old CPR railbed from Kettle River Drive to Highway 3. At the Highway there will be a gently contoured paved path to the sidewalk by the highway, on both the north and south sides of the road. I envision distinctive signage declaring that this is the ‘Trans Canada Trail’ that crosses Highway 3.
This is a real opportunity to create a sustainable brand for Grand Forks. I have been told that over 40,000 vehicles a month pass by that spot on the Highway. How better to build on the green initiatives of the current city council than to promote the city’s trail network?
Trails, and all that are a part of it: walking, hiking, biking, skiing - all healthy outdoor activities - must be a part of any promotion of the area. As our population ages, these are the opportunities we look for where we live.
Considering the trails outside the city, Grand Forks has the distinction of having the Trans Canada Trail (TCT) pass right through its center. In fact, it literally connects the entire Boundary. We are surrounded by trails. There are a number of projects this year on the TCT around the region. A group of local trail advocates met in the spring of this year to create a ‘wish list’ of projects, and many were funded this year.
In terms of projects, the length of the trail from Cascade Trestle to Nursery Trestle was brush cut and sprayed to eliminate the grass growing in the centre of the trail.
Another major project involved installing safety railings. The two precarious drop-off sections northwest of Grand Forks, before the Fisherman’s Creek Line Shack will be railed. I actually once met a dirt bike on this corner, and it could easily have been fatal for one of us.
A contract has been written for the construction of the stairs on the East end of the Smitten Trestle. This is the long trestle by Christina Lake Golf Club.
A ‘request for proposal’ is currently out on BC Bid for the engineering of a suspension bridge for the Lafferty washout at McKay Creek east of Christina Lake. This washout occurred several years ago and there was a bypass pathway built by Harry Killough of Castlegar. Unfortunately this bypass has suffered the affects of weather and must be replaced, so $150,000 has been allocated for this project. This could become a major tourist attraction in its own right.
A contract has also been written for the fabrication of various toilets and kiosks to be ready for installation this fall.
The geotechnical engineers have assessed all the tunnels in the area, and the preliminary analysis is to focus the funding we have on remediation works for the Paulson Tunnel and Fishermen 1 Tunnel as they are in the worst state.
So much is happening: over $2 million is being spent inside the City of Grand Forks on trails this year and over $600,000 could potentially be spent on the Trans Canada Trail outside the City of Grand Forks.
The Grand Forks Community Trails Society are strong advocates of trail use -- it is clear to us that we need to ‘Think Trails.’ It will encourage our citizens to be more active. It will also attract new residents who are looking for these kinds of amenities.
This has been a part of our ‘brand’ in the past – why can we not build on and expand this – make it a bigger part of our advertising? We are becoming known for our trails – just a few weeks ago we hosted a group from Cranbrook and Sparwood, riding our part of the Trans Canada Trail. They had dinner at a local restaurant, we had a few drinks at the pub and they spent the night in a local motel, all contributing to the local economy. Isn’t this the kind of experience we want to promote?