By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Trail networks in the Columbia Valley got a financial boost last week, with two major grants being awarded to two separate trail projects either in or near Invermere.

The District of Invermere will receive $983,000 for its Athalmer Destination Trails, and the Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance will receive $976,455 for a segment of the Invermere to Radium legacy trail project that will run from Invermere up to the crossroads. The grants, collectively totalling almost $2 million, come from the rural economic recovery stream of the provincial government’s Community Economy Recovery Infrastructure Program, which was initiated to help B.C. communities recover from the economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Invermere mayor Al Miller outlined at the Tuesday, Feb. 23 council meeting that the $983,000 is meant “to help with the trails and boardwalks, and to connect existing trails through our new lands (the Lake Windermere Resort lands recently purchased by Invermere)” and then added that in conjunction with the funding for Greenways “this is just fantastic for our area. What a great way to give a little push start to our Joint Transport Network… all in all, great news.”

In a follow-up conversation with the Pioneer, Miller explained that how the money will be spent and what the resulting trail network will look like has yet to be decided.

“We’re going to have some discussions to determine that, figure out what we can do, and then begin planning,” Miller told the Pioneer. “But it’s going to be a real boon to the community and the surrounding area. It’s really going to add to our attraction, and the pathways that will be built out of this are going to be great for locals to use and for visitors to use too.”

The $976,455 for Greenways will be used for a shovel-ready segment of the organization’s planned Radium to Invermere legacy trail, which, as previously reported in the Pioneer, will eventually connect to the Old Coach Trail. This northern trail will join with the 25 kilometre Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail between Invermere and Fairmont Hot Springs as part of the larger Legacy Trial network, which once completed will connect three of the Columbia Valley’s biggest communities (Radium, Invermere and Fairmont) and its two largest commercial hot springs.

Greenways project manager Lianne Lang explained to the Pioneer that Greenways applied for the grant funding in conjunction with Invermere, the Shuswap Indian Band, and Eagle Ranch Resort (a significant part of the Invermere-crossroads trail segment will run through Eagle Ranch Resort). Lang added that with the final 1.4 kilometre re-route of the Markin-MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail (the short bit that is currently right on Westside Road) set to be completed this year, Greenways has been turning its attention to the northern part of the Legacy Trail Network and is keen to begin work on it. 

“Eagle Ranch is pleased to partner with Greenways, the Shuswap Indian Band, the District of Invermere and our other partners as we work together to build this trail that will play such an important role in economic recovery and growth for the community and region. Outdoor pathway activities are perfect for the times we are living through.” said Eagle Ranch Golf Resort president Guy Turcotte in a press release.  

“We are grateful to the province for investing in this project. It is a fantastic way to continue to build momentum towards an integrated trail system, create jobs, and support economic recovery,” added Greenways chair Lyle Wilson, in the same press release. 

In the press release, Lang outlined that the Eagle Ranch segment being ‘shovel-ready’ means that consultations and studies are expected to be done in 2021 and trail building is expected to start in the 2022 construction season.  

“We are excited to begin this next step and look forward to sharing details for the overall project as they develop, including fundraising plans,” said Lang.