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Posted: June 20, 2016

Elko to Elkford trail work underway

By Robert Champagne

This year, the Fernie Trails Alliance (FTA), District of Sparwood and District of Elkford are implementing an $860,000 project to establish a 140 km long section of the Trans Canada Trail that will extend from Elko to Elkford.

The project will involve a combination of installing signs along roadways, upgrading existing trails, and constructing over 20 km of new trails. The project is being funded by the Elk Valley Community Trail (community directed funds) and the Trans Canada Trail. The majority of the route must be completed by the end of 2016, so you can expect this to be a reality sooner than you could have imagined!

Pat Gilmar and Sean Staplin at the Montane Bridge span .
Pat Gilmar and Sean Staplin at the Montane Bridge span .

This route will be connecting communities from Elko to Round Prairie (just north of Elkford).

“One of the biggest accomplishments is the bringing together of three Elk Valley communities in a shared vision that will provide a physical connection between them. More often than not, the Elk Valley communities seem to work in isolation. This is a great step in establishing communications and positive working relationships with our neighbors,” said FTA President Terry Nelson.

The trail will vary in difficulty. However, the sections closest to communities will be approximately one to 1.5 metres in width and not have grades steeper than 10%. For many sections of the trail, a mountain bike pulling a chariot will be a reality. There will, however, be sections farther away from communities that will not be quite as easy. Some existing trails, roadways and re-purposed trails are being used along the 140 km route. The entire route will have signage and information kiosks.

Montane TCT section
Montane TCT section

The Elk Valley Trail Committee is comprised of FTA members Terry Nelson, Pat Gilmar, Jim Miller, Robert Champagne and Julie Kelly… District of Sparwood representative Duane Lawrence, the Sparwood Trails Alliance and Scott Beeching from the District of Elkford. This trail building project is managed by Jeff Volp – Cordillera Technical Services.

The FTA has already started building new sections of the Trans Canada Trail in the Fernie area. The first 1.6 km are being built on the Montane property from Montane Trail (Ruby’s Way section) to the River Road Extension bridge over Coal Creek. An additional 2.5 km of the existing Montane Trail will be upgraded with water control measures and used by the TCT route into Fernie.

The next 1.2 km of new trail will be built from the bridge across Coal Creek Road, above the old landfill site and tie into the Coal Creek Heritage Trail to the Aquatic Centre. These new sections of the TCT will be built 1.5 metres wide to accommodate two way traffic and non-motorized multi-use.

We have flagged out the TCT connector from Southern Comfort area (Branch Road H) to the Montane Trail above Montane Hut. Permissions are being pursued and Back Country Trail Experts has been selected to build three kms of new Trans Canada Trail at an easy grade across the Cokato Creek gully. This work will start in early July and be completed by the end of August.

TCT bridge span on Montane section.
TCT bridge span on Montane section.

Two other sections of new trail are scheduled to be constructed starting in July: a 2.5 km section along the east side of the Elk River south of Elkford, and a three km section between Hosmer and Sparwood.

One major hurdle to overcome on this project is obtaining authorizations from the many private landowners and land managers along the route; work on additional trail sections will be commencing as these authorizations are put in place.

The Elk Valley Trail Committee would like to extend its thanks to the private landowners that are supporting this initiative.

As per Duane Lawrence (District of Sparwood): “The one thing we really want to highlight is that this is a partnership between three communities, and we are excited to showcase what can be done when the valley communities work together to achieve something.”

Watch for regular updates about the Elk Valley Trans-Canada Trail in this publication.

Lead image: Sean Staplin at TCT Montane Bridge. Photos submitted

Robert Champagne is a member of the Fernie Trails Alliance

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