Canmore council critical of Trails Master Plan

By Tanya Foubert - Canmore

A year after work began on a Trails Master Plan for the town of Canmore, a draft of the final report was presented to council with one resounding critique expressed - the manner in which trail system users interact with wildlife is in need of more work.

Mayor Ron Casey, who has made the point at previous updates for the plan, said the most integral parts of managing wildlife in the valley are developing habitat patches and protecting wildlife corridors.

"There is no sense in having workable corridors when habitat patches are absolutely smothered in people and dogs," Casey said. "What is an acceptable level of human use we should be encouraging in habitat patches?"

The need for habitat patches was originally identified as being closely linked with the valley's wildlife corridors. There are several key habitat patches necessary in the Canmore area according to Casey, including South Canmore, Three Sisters, the Nordic Centre area and SilverTip.

While wildlife corridors allow animals to move undisturbed through the valley they have been identified as inappropriate places for habitat, in other words animals eating and resting.

"It has been difficult putting these recommendations together without a clear understanding of what to do with these patches," said parks planner Jamie Carpenter, who has been working on the master plan since last June when its terms of reference were approved.

Carpenter said two open houses for the community attracted 170 residents. He added he hopes to have a final plan before council in September.

He said the plan captures the essence of what residents at the open houses are asking for on the trail systems - 56 recommendations ranging from short-term to long-term initiatives were the result of the open houses.

It was a long-term recommendation to put a pedestrian bridge over the Bow River at the Tipple mine site in Three Sisters that concerned Casey.

"We seem to have it in our head that the wildlife corridor that comes down Grassi ends at the river," he said. "By building a bridge across here we are encouraging the number of people in this area to increase."

Carpenter also said one of the most prominent concerns for trail users was safety, especially with regards to crossing the Trans Canada Highway.

Coun. John Borrowman expressed concerns about the financial impact of the 56 recommendations in the draft report. The Town currently has a five- to 10-year capital plan with a number of suggested projects already included and several major ones that are not.

Carpenter said he would be working over the next several months with the 2008 budget process to try and "catch up with trails" adding there is a lot of work to do.

Casey also requested a review of agreements with existing subdivisions to ascertain if trails the Town is entitled to have been forgotten. Specifically, he commented on a trail that once existed in SilverTip.

"Right in front of houses on this ridge at one time there was a pedestrian trail planned," he said. "Since then it has disappeared. Maybe we should look back to some these old (bylaws) to see if we are entitled to trails."

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