If the Parkland Ski Club can land a provincial grant to cover the cost, there could be further trail upgrades to the River Bend Golf and Recreation Area, beyond those approved for biathlon and cross-country ski competitions to take place at the 2019 Canada Winter Games.
City council voted unanimously to expand the scope of its 2014 Trail Development Project contingent on the Club securing funds from the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP).
If Parkland Ski Club’s bid is successful, the project value would increase from $729,000 to $1.3 million, with CFEP covering the difference, said Barb McKee, the City’s recreation superintendent.
CFEP dollars are awarded on a matching basis. McKee described Parkland Ski Club’s proposal as using previously approved funds for, “Leveraging grant funding.”
“It’s actually in a way bringing more resources to Red Deer, not on the taxpayer’s dime,” she said.
The 2019 Canada Winter Games plan will upgrade 5.5 kms out of 14.5 kms of trails at River Bend. The Parkland Ski Club seeks enhancements to the rest, including brushing, widening and base work grading to improve safety, new trail connections to reduce the need for skiers to cross the River Bend roadway, and installing lighting on select sections of trail.
Trails at River Bend have not been expanded in 35 years, officials noted.
Council briefing notes indicate that Parkland Ski Club’s request is aimed at developing a facility that could host future Nordic ski racing events such as the Alberta Cup series, Nor-Am or Nationals.
Speaking in support Councillor Ken Johnston said he was excited about the proposal and the prospects for sports tourism.
“I think we have an opportunity to see how that successful bid three years ago is resulting in transformation of some of our facilities,” Johnston said.
McKee said it’s not just skiers who will benefit, but those who use River Bend for snowshoeing, fat biking, walking and hiking.
At this point, the amount it would cost the City to operate the expanded trails is not known.
The River Bend Golf and Recreation Society is contracted by the City to groom the trails McKee said, adding that some portions might be decommissioned.
Once the final trail length is determined, “We’ll have a better idea of what it will take to maintain (them),” she said.
“But we know right now that we contract (the Society) to maintain at minimum three times a week, those groomed trails down at River Bend. We’ll have to do some work here in the next year once we really nail down that final trail plan — lighting, widths and (knowing) what the operational impacts are.”
City administration consulted with environmental groups including the Red Deer River Naturalists and the Waskasoo Environmental Education Society on ecological concerns.
Some adjustments to the plan included scaling back on trail lighting and working around an owl nesting area, McKee said.
“It was about understanding what is out there and making sure our plans, as much as possible, could work around those existing ecological conditions and balance the two needs.”
Meanwhile, later in the meeting, council accepted a report from the Community Services Division to confirm that following an environmental assessment, expansion of the north parking lot at Great Chief Park was not pursued, resolving concerns raised in 2012 by the Red Deer River Naturalists.