By Breanne Massey

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A draft of the joint Active Transportation Committee Network Plan that was developed in collaboration between the District of Invermere (DOI) and the Shuswap Indian Band (SIB) for community engagement sessions last week.
There were a total of two webinars hosted on Dec. 3 for the community to learn about the opportunities for a proposed crossing of the Columbia Valley in the near future.
“The plan sets the direction for where we’re going for biking, walking and multi-use pathways in Invermere and beyond,” said Rory Hromadnik, the DOI district planner at the webinar. “Hopefully, at some point, it goes over to the Old Coach Trail and the SIB lands.”
Urban Systems transportation planner Sarah Freigang and her engineering and communications peers joined the webinars to provide information about the development of the plan.
The hourlong information sessions with the DOI included a question and answer period for civically minded community members who attended the webinars. Previously, there were two hour-long information sessions offered to SIB members on Zoom.
When polled during the second session, attendees responded that 43 per cent of the community walks in the community or for recreation daily. Twenty-nine per cent of attendees reported that they walk one-to-three times per week; while the remaining 29 per cent indicated that they walk four-to-six times per week.
“This is a joint plan between the DOI and the SIB,” said Freigang. “It’s an opportunity for the two communities to work together.”
The vision for the trail network is to bridge the gap so both communities can connect physically with each other on a bridge and symbolically as well.
Active transportation is defined in this project as any form of human powered transportation such as walking dogs, jogging, cycling and those utilizing mobility devices such as wheelchairs, walkers and strollers on a variety of options through infrastructure.
The purpose of the Active Transportation Plan is to complete a feasibility study to determine the viability of moving forward after evaluating a long-term plan for walking and cycling as well as reviewing the logistics of the project.
In the spring of 2020, the project began, and community engagement began to be developed during the summer and fall. There were 103 total participants in the community survey that was issued to collect information from the community, which yielded that 64 per cent of DOI residents and nine per cent of participants from the SIB in a survey about transportation behaviours and patterns. The survey also asked questions about travel patterns that may have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in some discrepancies between pre-pandemic lifestyles where more people from the community are working remotely, and many participants had begun bicycling more frequently.
Some barriers to walking and biking across the Columbia River bridge crossing were safety concerns and accessibility issues for end-users.
Ninety-four per cent of survey respondents indicated that they would support exploring an alternative active transportation crossing over the Columbia River.
The drivers for walkers were to exercise, take in nature, visit local venues and services as well as to socialize with friends and family, but the top four challenges for walking in the valley included lack of trails and sidewalks, intersection safety and noise from motor vehicles.
Feedback from the community asked for skateboards, inline skating and one-boards into the design parameters of active transportation during the question and answer period of the session, and Freigang remarked it would be added to be included in the design plans.
Another participant asked if the current resurfacing of the bridge over the river decreased the width of the bridge with a barrier.
“We did lose four inches of the close to three foot barrier,” said Hromadnik, noting that it’s a work in progress that’s expected to be safer for the community upon completion of the safety enhancement.
Last week, the goal of the webinars was to refine recommendations from the communities and will be working toward finalizing the plans with a target date of project completion in early 2021.
Connectivity, experience and culture have been identified as the plan themes based on several draft policies that were created in the Active Transportation Plan.
The next steps of the plan include additional community and stakeholder engagements with the community; revising the ideas outlined in the existing documents and to prepare a master plan to distribute to council for endorsement in early 2021.
“I know Mayor Miller is all in and I know Chief Cote is all in, there’s some good stuff happening here,” said Hromadnik at the end of the meeting.
To learn more about the draft, please visit the DOI’s website to view the information that was shared with the community.
If you have any questions or further input to provide, please contact sfreigang@urbansystems.ca or planning@invermere.net with your feedback directly.