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Posted: January 19, 2015

Westside Legacy Trail push continues

By Ian Cobb/e-KNOW

A multi-organization represented Columbia Valley group is working hard to create a paved trail down Westside Road, from Invermere to Fairmont Hot Springs.

Mark Halwa of Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance and Richard Haworth, Haworth Development Consulting Ltd. Jan. 9 asked the Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) to take on maintenance of the proposed 25-km trail and assume liability of the Lake Windermere Westside Legacy Trail.

Mark Halwa of Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance
Mark Halwa of Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance

The proposed trail will be similar to the NorthStar Rails-to-Trail between Cranbrook and Kimberley and the Banff – Canmore trail.

“This is a very big volunteer effort,” noted Halwa, addressing the regional board in Cranbrook.

The Lake Windermere Westside Legacy Trail will be a multi-use, non-motorized, paved trail connecting Invermere, starting at CastleRock, to the Hoodoos at Highway 93/95.

The trail will be located on west side of Lake Windermere paralleling Westside Road and will be located primarily on Shaunessy Ranches Ltd. (SRL) land, other private land, and within Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure right-of-ways, explains a Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance report.

The total length of the trail will be approximately 25 km long, five meters wide with a 3.5 meter paved width and a painted centerline. The planned cost of design, engineering and construction is estimated to be approximately $2.7 million.

A view from Castlerock south across Lake Windermere. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW images
A view from Castlerock south across Lake Windermere. Ian Cobb/e-KNOW images

“The Westside Trail will be a dynamic landmark that will have many positive effects on the community including community health, economic development, educational value, community access, safety and additional future benefits. There will also be challenges to the success of a project of this size including building benefit awareness within the community, trust among the various landowners and fundraising momentum to complete the project,” Greenways notes.

The initial phase of the project began with recognizance of the landscape in fall 2014, followed by landowner and interest group engagement and initial fundraising. “With $100,000 already committed to the project, a professional project manager has been hired and once land use agreements have been signed and additional funding is available, construction can commence with the target completion date for the Lake Windermere Westside Legacy Trail being fall 2017 or as funding becomes available,” Greenways explains, adding, “It is expected that funding for this project will come from a variety of sources, including corporate funding, government grants and public outreach.”

In summer 2014, Greenways met with SRL owners Bob and Barb Shaunessy, who own 12,000 acres of land along Westside Road. The owners agreed to provide contiguous land for a trail beginning near CastleRock Estates to the end of their property near the Hoodoos.

“This will be approximately half of the total distance of the trail. In addition, the Shaunessy’s agreed to provide seed funding,” Halwa told the regional board, noting the philanthropic couple have given them $50,000 to help get started.

“They have been a huge help,” Halwa said.

Westide view eastWhile finding the funds to complete the trail is ongoing, Halwa told the board that the biggest challenge will be to maintain it on an annual basis – with an estimated cost of $20,000 a year, which is why the regional district is being approached, as well as to assume liability and review their statutory right-of-way agreement.

To help get the trail launched by reducing initial costs, necessary amenities such garbage cans and restrooms will be added in phases, Halwa said.

Haworth said the bulk of the trail, complete with bridges and boardwalks, will follow the west side of Westside Road and parking areas will be created, including one near CastleRock turnoff where the trail will start.

“There appears to be some support for that,” he said, adding a second parking area near the section of the trail with the steepest gradient is under consideration “to make it more family-friendly.”

Electoral Area F Director Wendy Booth
Electoral Area F Director Wendy Booth

The RDEK directors from each end of the proposed trail offered thumbs up on the proposal.

Electoral Area F Director Wendy Booth credited the trail organizers for employing “a good strategy,” including getting legal requirements sorted out first.

“I wish you all the best,” she said before making a motion to have RDEK staff investigate how they could find $20,000 a year for maintenance.

District of Invermere Mayor Gerry Taft also declared his support for the long-considered trail. “It’s a great initiative,” he said, adding he’d like to see RDEK staff look into a way to include the Athalmer Trail (from Athalmer to the crossroads) in the annual maintenance fund.

RDEK Environmental Manager Kevin Paterson pointed out that outstanding issues remain with the provincial government in terms of that section of trail, which would also serve as the connector Old Coach Trail leading to Radium Hot Springs from Dry Gulch.

Taft, attending the meeting while eagerly anticipating the birth of his first child suggested, “the government doesn’t give a crap” about who or what has tenure over the trail.

Both the RDEK and District of Invermere have spent money on maintenance of the trail, which runs close to the highway right-of-way in one section.

The board passed Booth’s motion as initially stated.

Further as per Columbia River Greenways Alliance report to the RDEK.

Westside viewThe Columbia River Greenways Alliance was launched over a decade ago with the intent of creating an interconnected trail network throughout the Upper Columbia Valley. In 2013, seven additional groups joined Greenways and renamed the organization the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance to work together to create a world class trail network for the enduring benefit of residents and visitors. Greenways has completed many successful trail projects from Golden to Canal Flats and now has a larger and more diverse group of Directors and member groups totalling almost 600 residents and visitors. The next project has been identified as a paved Legacy Trail from Invermere to Fairmont Hot Springs.

There are numerous purposes in connecting the entire length of the upper Columbia River valley with a paved trail. The year round, multi-purpose trail will connect the people of the region in a unique and personal way. By serving a wide variety of user groups such as walkers, runners, bicyclists, roller-skiers, cross-country skiers, wheelchair users, inline skaters, families and people of all ages and interests, the Greenways Legacy Trail will contribute significantly to the general health and well being of the population.

Integrating this wide range of user groups will unite various interest groups with a common project, which will benefit all the groups, the resident population and visitors. The next phase of the project will finalize the use of SRL lands and other private landowner property along the west side of Lake Windermere to create this Legacy Trail. The completion of the segment of the Greenways Trail south of Invermere will connect the regions highest population area, the District of Invermere (DOI), with the beautiful natural landscape along the west side of Lake Windermere to the highway leading to Fairmont Hot Springs, another significant population center and tourist destination.

A facility like this paved trail will have a huge effect on tourism in the Columbia Valley. One just has to look at the success of the Cranbrook to Kimberley Rail Trail the Canmore to Banff Trail and the Kettle Valley Rails to Trails to appreciate the significance of these amenities to the growth of the tourism in the region. The Greenways Trail will take advantage of the opportunities presented along the full length of the trail to construct educational interpretive stations at suitable locations. School groups and local clubs will be able to take education to where it belongs – in the natural environment.

See more about Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance here. Scroll down a few pages to get to their report.

A view of the west side of Lake Windermere, from Fairmont Hot Springs, encompassing much of the terrain the proposed trail would follow.
A view of the west side of Lake Windermere, from Fairmont Hot Springs, encompassing much of the terrain the proposed trail would follow.

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