CANMORE – Planning of the mountain bike trail system around Canmore is going to see growth for years to come.
On Tuesday (Nov. 23), Canmore and Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) announced it received a massive $100,000 grant in provincial funding in addition to finalizing a much-anticipated cooperating agreement with Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) that was years in the making.
"Just getting the cooperating agreement was such a milestone, but this funding was unexpected," said Chad Holowatuk, CAMBA's president.
Both will allow for better and quicker access to care for trails with a greatly expanded environment for building much-desired new ones.
The "site" area, CAMBA’s newly annexed area of responsibility, in which the local organization will assist AEP "in the planning, design, development, construction and maintenance of public, non-motorized, multi-use recreational trails in Kananaskis Country, located within Bow Valley Provincial and Wildland Provincial Parks, Spray Valley Provincial Park, Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park and Evan-Thomas Provincial Recreation Area."
"[The site] is a pretty big area," said Holowatuk, noting the organization has mostly worked around the Canmore townsite. “What it allows us to do is use our own processes and procedures – insurance, workers compensation and all those kind of things that we have set up, to go independently and maintain and build trails on Alberta Parks land.
“Once the plan is approved every year, we do and we schedule it how we want to schedule it."
CAMBA has similar cooperating agreements on Town of Canmore and Three Sister Mountain Village lands. For the past six years, CAMBA has worked through Friends of Kananaskis Country's cooperating agreement when working on AEP trails.
“We sincerely value the effort and professionalism of our cooperating partners and look forward to strengthening our working relationship with CAMBA and collaborating on future projects,” said Duane Fizor, acting infrastructure manager/trails & backcountry team lead for AEP, in a press release.
For the incoming and "unexpected" large sum of $100,000, CAMBA has yet to discuss what the funds will be used for, but a clear plan should be in place by its annual general meeting in spring 2022.
One factor in the provincial grant is the $100,000 must be spent within a year of receiving, which is anticipated to be official in March.
Last summer, CAMBA piloted a paid trail crew, which was found to be “extremely beneficial” and something that could be expanded on next year.
Holowatuk would support the funds being used for similar projects, which would allow CAMBA to do more trail work.
"There's a lot of places [the funding] could go,” said Holowatuk. “I don't think it's going to be a problem finding a useful home for this … but getting help to build some capacity so we can actually in the short season have maintenance and for building and get a lot more done throughout that season. I think that's what I’m going to advocate for: is a focus to help build CAMBA's capacity with this money.
“The biggest challenge is we have a few trail projects on the go, but there's a lot of trails that exist and the biggest demand in the near future is basically going to be the maintenance on these trails. That's a huge undertaking.”
There are a few projects on-the-go in 2022 for CAMBA, which include completion of the roughly 800-metre downhill enduro track at the Canmore Nordic Centre; help build the Iliad trail at the Nordic centre; assist in building the new Cloudline trail or Highline east extension, and the Benchlands skills park expansion project.
Winter grooming activities have also started for fat bikes.
Prior to the cooperating agreement being put into place, CAMBA reached out to many different recreational groups.
“We created a trail advisory committee for all projects to get better input from social clubs to make sure we're taking into account all users and all these recreationalists that would be impacted by a project," said Holowatuk.
Although, human impact isn’t the only concern in CAMBA's mandate.
Working closely with the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley with WildSmart, wildlife conservation is a paramount piece of CAMBA’s operation.
“With respect to wildlife and the environment, CAMBA will continue to respect the wildlife and preserve the ecosystem in all the work we do,” he said. “We also recognize that trails are used by many different recreational users and all projects will continue to be approached with this care, engagement, and mindset to provide experiences enjoyed by all trail users.”