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Friends of Trails
Media News re trails 2000
Feb. 1, 2000, Red Deer Advocate, Column by Greg Neiman
Local trails worth support
The chain of committees working to build the Trans Canada Trail
have been spending the past week putting out the fires that sprang up
with the news that major portions of this trail network would be open to
Suffering some well-deserved public relations burns, trail
organizers and supporters have been hard at work soothing the outraged
feelings of a public that supports the trail, but not as a byway
for dirt bikes and ATVs.
So, the most recent releases are not a denial that large sections
of the trail (some say as much as 30 per cent) will indeed see ATVs
roaring up and down. But that includes an assurance that those sections
will be mostly in remote northern areas that would likely see very
little foot traffic, and in some provincial parks where current law
already allows their use.
Betty Anne Graves, of Calgary, is an Alberta representative of the
Trans Canada Trail. She called the Advocate to give the organizers' side
of the situation, and to renew their stated purpose that the trail is to
be for hikers and bikers only.
The government of Newfoundland, for example, promised motorbike
riders they would be allowed on the entire route of the trail conversion
on the rail bed abandoned with the demise of their famous Newfie Bullet
line. The Trans Canada Trail people, said Graves, could no more refuse
the gift of the trail than they could demand the province change its
In Alberta and areas north, another huge section of the proposed
trail route is to be given to motorized traffic, but that's to be north
of Athabasca only. From there, and into the empty beauty of the Yukon,
it's an awfully long way from anywhere to anywhere, with very few fellow
travellers to meet along the way. Trail organizers agreed that since
driving ATVs and motorbikes is "a way of life" in the north, hikers and
bikers brave enough to undertake the challenge of travelling those parts
of the trail, will have to share.
To counter the complaint that a nature trail is hardly the place
for something as environmentally damaging as off-road dirt-rippers,
Graves says organizers report the repair of bridges at stream crossings
and existence of the trail itself has spared a lot of environmental
damage, because it's a better place to ride than to plow a path through
wild brush. Let's give them that point.
Of greater importance, say Graves and several others who have
spoken out on the issue, is the battle to persuade local landowners that
the trail is worth having. In Alberta, that battle has been especially
There will be no motorized traffic spoiling the trail in Alberta
south of Athabasca, says Graves. None. But there are other issues to be
settled, and Graves says it is desperately important that they be talked
through, and that supporters of the trail speak out.
Here's one example: Calgarian Marg Archibald has toured the world
on her bike, and has written a couple of books on the subject. One of
them, called Excellent Cycling Adventures in Southern Alberta, is a
compendium of maps, hints and routes for a large number of enjoyable
The book mentions two tours that are considered in the top four
cycle trips in the world. One is the famous Golden Triangle, from Castle
Mountain, to Radium, to Golden, to Banff. It is spectacular and attracts
hundreds of riders a year, mostly on guided tours. Another is the
Icefields Parkway ride from Jasper to Banff, which is included in the
famous MS Ride for Hope annual cycle tour.
Well, there's another ride that is every bit as spectacular, and
which could be a major boost to Alberta's tourist industry. It's 150 km
of trail in a T-shaped route that includes Wimbourne, Irricana and
Drumheller areas, along an abandoned rail bed sold to the Trans Canada
Trail by the CPR. The scenery, in its own way rivals the Rockies for
sheer grandeur. The trail committee owns the trail, but cannot develop
it for use without the co-operation of neighbouring landowners. And that
co-operation is not forthcoming.
Considering that the trail land is already legally theirs, the loss
of ability to convert it for use would be a tragedy for the trail
supporters. It would also be a huge loss of potential for the thousands
of people who could use it. The communities along the line could also
lose a world-class tourist resource right on their doorstep. Thus even
the landowners themselves end up losing something.
To connect that trail through Central Alberta to the mountain
sections is to spin off hundreds of tourism jobs, for guides, for
hospitality workers and business owners in every small community along
Given the assurances that these trails will not become motorized
routes (TrailNet news releases used terms like "adamant" and "absolute")
these sections are worth supporting.
Perhaps, once the trail is built -- and it will eventually be built
-- the sense of slowly closing other sections off to motorized traffic
will show itself. And Alberta, with its varied scenery and mature
hospitality industry, will be a major beneficiary.
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