The Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance envisions the Columbia Valley connected by land and water greenways. Planning is underway to bring that vision one path closer to fruition with the development of a paved path connecting the Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail (WLT) to Radium Hot Springs.

From the south headed north, the human powered, multi-use path’s route will snake its way from Athalmer through Guy Turcotte’s Eagle Ranch Properties, followed by the Shuswap Indian Band’s land before connecting with the Old Coach Trail through the RDEK before entering the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

“That the planning for the path is as far as it is shows how much we are all willing to collaborate,” said Clara Reinhardt, Radium’s mayor. “We’re all excited about it.” Yet to be determined is the final route which comes first before estimated costs and budgets.

“From the beginning of Greenways, we envisioned connecting Hot Springs to Hot Springs via pathway,” said Lyle Wilson, Greenways’ Chairman. The WLT had its grand opening on Sept. 18th. After the ceremony, Wilson said that two successful meetings between each of the involved stakeholders had already happened for the next phase of the project.

“We really want to keep the momentum up that we established with the completion of the legacy trail,” said Wilson. “We’ve got the know how, we know who to contact for the necessary grants, we have great relationships with private donors. We really think we need to move forward while this machine is in gear.”

The goal for the path would be for it to look and feel much the same as the WLT. “We plan to have the same level of engineering and construction and also offer the same kind of fundraising opportunities like benches and plaques and so forth.”

Wilson indicated there was a tremendous level of support for the project’s continuation. “This is an optimistic goal but we think we can start pushing ground next summer. It will be a far simpler trail to build than the WLT. A majority of the route is on mostly flat land, and having the Old Coach Trail already essentially carved out means that we think we can have this project completed in three years.” Wilson said there were lessons learned from completing WLT that can be applied to this next portion. “We learned valuable lessons like how best to protect ourselves financially, how best to tender contracts out, establishing credit with lenders, that kind of thing.”

Both Invermere mayor Al Miller and RDEK Area F Director Susan Clovechok echoed Wilson and Reinhardt’s enthusiasm for the project. “I hope to see a future where all our communities in this valley are connected via a trail system,” said Clovechok. “The health and economic spinoff benefits will be huge,” said Miller. “From the mountain biking community’s perspective, it’s now one of biggest economic drivers for the valley,” said Wilson. “When you see a bike on the back of a truck that should say to you $125 per day of spend in this area. I don’t know of many other amenities that can give such a large bang for buck for a community than a strip of pavement.”

The next steps involve agreeing on a route. “In the next few weeks, we’re going to all get together with a survey tape and walk a route we can all agree on,” said Wilson. Once that’s done, the drawings, budgets, the nitty gritty, it will all start coming together. “We know which grants we can target, and now having the Shuswap fully on board, we can tap other sources of funding too,” Wilson said. Key grants Greenways will apply for include those offered from the Columbia Basin Trust, BikeBC and the federal infrastructure matching grant program.

Greenways’ initial intention was to start with connecting Invermere to Radium via a pathway. At the time, however, the Shuswap Indian Band wasn’t on board with the project. “So we changed our focus to go south from Invermere,” said Wilson. “But with Barb [Cote] as the new chief, she’s told me how important having a pathway through her band’s land would be for her people. The health benefits, the fun for the whole family aspect, something as simple as a strip of pavement can do so much for a community.” Shuswap Chief Barb Cote,x Guy Turcotte couldn’t be reached before press deadline.