TCT Trail Marker Red Deer

Central Alberta Regional Trails Society

Trans Canada Trail Pavilion Red Deer

Connecting Communities . . .
Enjoying Trails
in the Great Outdoors!


   Trans Canada Trail in
   Central Alberta


   Urban Trails

   Rural Trails

   Rails to Trails 

   History of CARTS

   Media News 

President's Report   2014 

   Friends of Trails


   Contact Us

History of CARTS
   As CARTS celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2009, the society reflected on how the organization started, progressed and evolved to where it is today.
boats at Bower Ponds Red Deer   The concept of a regional trails network in Central Alberta can be traced back to at least 1987 with the completion of Waskasoo Park in Red Deer. Other communities also developed municipal recreational trail systems soon afterwards, including Innisfail, Lacombe and Sylvan Lake with several other communities at that time planning trails for the future. There was also a rural trail built linking Bentley with Gull Lake along Highway 12.
old steel train trestle on Red Deer River   Around 1994, a group of individuals, with support from Alberta TrailNet, proposed a trail linking Red Deer with Sylvan Lake using the abandoned Alberta Central Railway (a division of Canadian Pacific) right of way. The proposal met with a great deal of resistance from adjoining landowners who believed that they had first right of refusal to purchase those lands. There was also considerable question about the viability of using the railway trestle across the river. At the time, Canadian Pacific was hesitant in selling the land in case they needed it in the future.
   Meanwhile, around 1992, the idea of the Trans Canada Trail had originated with the Canada 125 Corporation, the organization set up to celebrate confederation's 125th birthday. They provided the initial funding for the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, which launched in 1994.
   The foundation spent the first year establishing itself with user-related organizations throughout Canada, such as Alberta TrailNet which is the Alberta representative organization and secured the support of several sponsors including Canada Trust, Canada Post, Chrysler Canada and TSN/RDS. Since then, other sponsors have contributed to the promotion and building of the trail, including Bell Canada, Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian Geographic, Raleigh Bicycles, Canadian Tourism Commission, and others.
   The first sections of the Trans Canada Trail officially opened in 2000.
trails in Lacombe   Early in 1998, a preliminary group of individual Central Albertans representing various agencies including the City of Red Deer, Red Deer County, Parkland Community Planning Services, Alberta TrailNet, Red Deer Visitor and Convention Bureau, Normandeau Cultural and Natural History Society, and Red Deer River Naturalists, came together to form the Central Alberta Regional Trails Initiative.
   This group proposed the creation of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Master Plan project to identify the issues, concerns, support, and ideas regarding the designation and development of recreational trail linkages in rural Central Alberta.
McKenzie Trails Waskasoo Park Red Deer   The project's budget was $65,000, of which $43,500 was designated for the hiring of Deb Comfort for one year (Sept. 1998-Aug. 1999) to co-ordinate the development of the plan. Funding was supplied by the Red Deer & District Community Foundation ($22,000), Lottery Funding ($41,000) and the City of Red Deer ($2,000). The city also contributed office space and equipment for the project. Funding applications on behalf of the project were submitted by the Normandeau Cultural and Natural History Society.
   The original terms of reference for the project proposal and funding applications were as follows:
   1. To ensure public participation and input as a vital component of all stages of the project;
   2. Complete a Master Plan and Development Strategy for a regional trail and green space corridor system;
   3. Facilitate the designation of a local regional trail system, through the development of a comprehensive concept plan, which incorporates the Trans Canada Trail;
   4. Produce guidelines for standards, users, support and costs for the development of the regional trail system;
   5. Complete a map inventory of all existing trail linkages within the project area from which regional trail alternatives can be planned;
   6. Identify the Central Alberta trail component to be immediately designated as the Trans Canada Trail;
   7. Identify possible range of users including information on public access, insurance, liability and legal issues related to trail development;
   8. Be a unified and consistent voice in promoting the Regional Trails Initiative.
trails in Innisfail   The initial project study area was broadly defined as an area from Innisfail east to the Red Deer River, north along the river, then west through the villages of Alix, Tees, Clive, through Lacombe and west to Bentley, then south to Sylvan Lake and on to Innisfail.
   With several other communities wishing to participate in the project, the area was expanded to include the communities of Bowden, Elnora, Mirror, College Heights, Markerville, Dickson and Benalto -- roughly the area encompassing the Counties of Red Deer and Lacombe.
   Once funding was established, and objectives identified, the first phase of the project included information collection, regional contact identification and the first information meeting.
playground and park in Springbrook   One of the terms of reference of the project was to identify and utilize a regionally representative Steering Committee that would act as a guiding group for the project, process and progress. A letter of invitation, under the signature of the Mayor of Red Deer and Reeve of Red Deer County, outlining the project and its purpose, was sent to all municipalities, known recreation boards, and previously involved interest groups. This original group of about 70 people was identified in October 1998 at the first initial information meeting held in Springbrook.
   Out of the regional steering committee, a smaller management sub-committee was identified to set up meetings and deal with day to day issues arising from the project.
Cronquist House Waskasoo Park Red Deer   Looking ahead  to the completion of the project, the management sub-committee set out to create a society that would continue to act as a regionally representative group concerned with the future designation and development process of trails in the region.
   In January 1999, the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS) was born, made up primarily of the management sub-committee. These volunteers were present and provided support at all public meetings, assisted with property owner mail outs and provided feedback and direction for the project surveys and process.

   During this time, there was considerable support and excitement from the various municipalities, organizations, interest groups and individuals involved with the project, including Red Deer County, Lacombe County and Central Alberta Regional Museums Network.
trails in Sylvan Lake   Mail outs were sent to 1100 property owners along possible trail routes and a series of five public meetings with a combined attendance of 293 people were held throughout the project area, including Sylvan Lake, Innisfail, Delburne, Pine Lake and Lacombe. A sixth and final meeting was held in Red Deer in June 1999 identifying trends and preliminary recommendations based on public feedback.
   Unfortunately, most of the initial feedback was generated primarily from residents of towns and villages rather than from rural areas. Some of the publicity implied that identified conceptual routes were proposed for immediate development, some going through private land, creating great concern, alarm and even a feeling of betrayal by rural residents.
former rail pedestrian bridge Red Deer   However, many positive outcomes resulted from the process, including the identification and feasibility of future potential trail routes, the establishment of the Central Alberta Regional Trails Society as the collective voice for the promotion of trail designation and/or trail development, the compilation of a map inventory of existing and future trails for the project area, provision of public information regarding the benefits of trails, the raising of community awareness and support of regional trails, and the identification of the area's historic routes and sites, community points of interest and natural areas.
   During the first few years of the Society's existence, a number of individuals and municipalities grew impatient and frustrated with the slow progress of trail development in the region and subsequently lost interest. The loss of interest was most noticeable with the rural municipalities as they became increasingly influenced by the negative reactions of a handful of rural taxpayers who were threatened by and therefore opposed to rural trails. There was also a feeling that trails would only benefit urban folks.
   However, a stalwart handful of individuals persisted and persevered, most notably the late Bob Johnstone, in spite of the negativity and apparent lack of progress in getting rural linkages established in Central Alberta. The Society maintained a close relationship with Alberta TrailNet and expanded its area to include Ponoka.
Trans Canada Trail pavilion Red Deer   A few years ago, with restricted volunteer resources, the Society decided to concentrate on the establishment of the Trans Canada Trail north-south corridor through the region and put other regional rural corridors on the back burner until the goal of firmly establishing the TCT has been accomplished, if at all possible, by 2010.
Trans Canada Trail pavilion Bower Ponds Red Deer   Although a series of trails in Red Deer were registered as Trans Canada Trail a few years earlier, the pavilion at Bower Ponds was officially dedicated in 2005. Other communities having TCT designation include Innisfail, Lacombe and Ponoka.
   The Trans Canada Trail Foundation contracted a consultant (Derry Armstrong) a few years ago to assist the Society in establishing the TCT between Ponoka and Penhold in as short a time as possible. It is largely through Derry's efforts that considerable progress has been made, particularly with a renewal of support for rural trails in the counties of Red Deer, Lacombe and Ponoka.

   In 2009, funding was secured from a variety of sources to construct two river bridges for the Trans Canada Trail crossing the Blindman River north of Red Deer and across the Battle River at Ponoka. Also in 2009, Red Deer County purchased the Mintlaw railway trestle across the Red Deer River and the abandoned Alberta Central Railway between the bridge and Sylvan Lake for possible future use as a trail.
   It has been very encouraging in recent months so see the rural municipalities take a proactive role in planning for future trail corridors linking communities and points of interest and promoting trails for new residential developments. Sections of rural trails are under development including sections between Springbrook and Penhold and between Lacombe and Ponoka County. The trail between Blackfalds and Lacombe was officially opened in 2013 and a study is underway for linking Red Deer and Springbrook. Progress has been made to develop a trail linking Penhold, Innisfail and Bowden.

Sylvan Lake

In Memoriam - Bob Johnstone























Site sponsored by


website developed by
Central Alberta Websites