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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 motorized traffic.
   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 promise.
   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 difficult.
   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 cycle tours.
   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 the route.
   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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