Trails inching along

The Woods & Water Recreational Trails Association held its annual general meeting last week. This is the group that hopes to develop a section of the Trans Canada Trail across the north shore of Lesser Slave Lake. The good news is there’s a provincial trail group that wants the same thing, and a national trail organization that is keen as anything for ‘The Great Trail’ (as it’s now being called) to be connected all the way from coast to coast to coast. The Arctic Spur of the TCT runs right through Smith and Slave Lake and on over to Grouard. That historical fur trade route has been designated for years as part of the TCT, but a line on a map and an actual trail are two very different things. Finding money for building and maintenance is just one of the challenges.
But so far so good, if you call 20 kilometres of mulching, surveying, a historical resources assessment and one bridge ‘good’ for about four years of effort. The wheels of government permission to do anything in the bush grind very slowly. The local trail group, along with the provincial trail body (Alberta TrailNet) are still trying to figure out what their obligations are, what is possible and how to afford to do it.
Assuming permission is forthcoming, it’s looking very likely that initial 20 kms. west of Marten Beach (mentioned above), will get some upgrades this year, which could include culverts and even a bridge or two. The question of a staging area has to be answered; this is to steer trail users away from the cottage areas of Marten Beach.
In reporting this, let’s not forget that not everybody likes the idea of trails. Some think they are kind of an airy fairy thing of questionable value not worth a penny of government money. For one thing, they’ll say, as long as there isn’t enough cash to keep roads in decent shape, why bother about trails?
Other arguments against trails are the same as against any type of increased access to the bush: If you build it, people will come and do damage.
On the other hand, the tourism argument is a strong one. Anybody who looks around the world a bit knows trails are big tourism visit generators. People love trails and will travel far and spend plenty to explore them.

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