Reopening trails will take 1 to 2 years and cost millions, committee told

It will take one to two more years before the city can reopen six trails in Edmonton’s river valley that were closed because of safety issues, a city committee was told Monday morning.

The Rossdale path connecting the Walterdale Bridge to 94th Avenue has been closed since 2013, when crews began building the Walterdale replacement bridge. That path is expected to reopen this year. 

A report presented to the city’s executive committee shows the path was also closed because the asphalt surface was deteriorating.

Mayor Don Iveson said he has heard from runners and others who are waiting for that trail to reopen. 

‘The access to nature is really important.’ – Charles Richmond, Sierra Club

“I know a lot of people love that part of the river valley near Rossdale, sort of the curves behind the old power plant [that] connects to the bridge that we built,” Iveson said.

Staff from citizens services don’t have a firm timeline for opening the Rossdale trail. The mayor said he is banking on it being ready by the end of the 2018 construction season.

Extensive work on the retaining wall at Capilano Park near Hardisty Drive is also on the remediation list. That project is expected to start this year or in 2019.

The Nellie McClung asphalt recreational trail behind the Old Timers Cabin was closed in 2017 when “conditions became unsafe.” 

The eroded bank at the Mill Creek Ravine near 97th Street and 90th Avenue needs to be fixed. 

The city circles cracks and roots, like these on the Dawson Park trail, to help users see problem areas on the trails. (Sierra Club of Canada)

“It was actually reassuring that there are plans in place to restore many of the trails that people love,” Iveson said.

A report from last November shows the city will need to spend $1.5 million to $3.5 million a year to rehabilitate the 180 kilometres of trails in the river valley. 

Citizen services told CBC News the city injected $5.2 million into the trail system between 2015 and 2018, and funding for the 2019 to 2022 budget period is still being considered.

Three trails — at Forest Heights Park, Keillor Road and the Whitemud Ravine South — are closed forever because of wash out or landslide conditions that are too expensive to rectify.

Charles Richmond with the Sierra Club Canada is urging councillors to focus on making trails more accessible for people with mobility issues.

“The access to nature is really important,” Richmond said.

He wants the city to use crushed gravel on trails through forested areas. He said the material is easier to repair than asphalt when roots start to come up through the surface.

The crushed gravel surface is as easy for people in wheelchairs to use and helps the city’s goal of making the trails more accessible.

Ed Wagner, the area manager for the Running Room in central Edmonton, has been using the trails for 25 years. He said the crushed gravel trails provide a good solid footing for runners. 

Ed Wagner

Ed Wagner, area manager of the central Edmonton Running Room, is a fan of crushed gravel trails for trails. (Ed Wagner)

“That generally doesn’t seem to allow roots and plants to grow through it quite as easily as the black-top paved trails do,” Wagner said.

Iveson said it’s the “city’s intent” to provide better access to trails for everyone.

“It’s the right thing to do from a human rights point of view, from an inclusion point of view, to attempt to make every one of our trails accessible where possible.”

It’s the city’s goal to use crushed gravel when appropriate, he said.

“We’re really lucky as runners and walkers to be able to access the extensive network of trails throughout our system.”

Wagner said his running groups choose paths depending on the season and the weather, and he thinks the city does a good job at maintaining them.

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