If wildlife could only talk.

They would probably tell Invermere council to forget the notion to establish a multi-use trail on the Athalmer dike. Birds would peck each councillor’s head and lament, “This is our home; what are you thinking?”

However, many hikers and cyclists would love to see a paved trail here; another great opportunity to get in touch with nature and enhance their health and well-being. But without an environmental assessment we don’t know how much encroachment this will have on the local habitat.

A group of Athalmer residents have already started a petition against the trail proposal, expressing concern about the impact it would have on ecological values, and ultimately the wetlands. Paving a trail on the dike has several positives and negatives attached, and council is wise to take a step back and consider them. Further consultation is needed with local residents and experts in biodiversity before a decision is made. And with any proposal, tradeoffs are imminent.

Trail development would no doubt give people an incentive to get off the couch and lose some pounds in their quest for health and fitness. It would also serve to educate the public on local flora and fauna via signage. Although opponents wouldn’t like it, the trail would enhance local tourism by attracting more people to the area, which in turn would boost the local economy.

But admittedly, drawing more of the public to this ecological haven may upset the balance of biodiversity. The encroachment could scare away species, some of which may be threatened. There have been countless examples in the past where development has negatively affected the environment and the wildlife that relies on it. 

Joni Mitchell was right: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

While there are many things that could spruce up the Athalmer neighbourhood, this proposal may not be one of them. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you have to develop it. And like it has already been stated, there are many other public access points to nature in the valley.

Do the assessments, talk to the experts, get the opinion of local residents, and go from there.

Lyonel Doherty, editor