trail-sign

By Steve Hubrecht

Pioneer Staff

The Greenways Trail Alliance is charging ahead with its fundraising efforts for the Westside Legacy Trail, which have been such a success so far that the group is hopeful construction on the project might begin this year.

The fundraising has been going well. We recently had a $50,000 donation from the Panorama Foundation, which puts us at just under $1.2 million raised, said Greenways executive director Mark Halwa. Were really pleased with that, especially given that weve only been fundraising for about seven months now; and given the economic conditions in Alberta. The economy may not be strong, but it seems the spirit of donating still is.

The Alliance is in the process of applying for two grants the Columbia Basin Trusts (CBT) new recreation infrastructure grants (announced just a few weeks ago), and a Bike BC grant (Bike BC is a division of the provincial Ministry of Transportation). If both applications are successful, they would total $1.5 million in grant money for the Westside Legacy Trail. In conjunction with money already raised, that would mean $2.7 worth of funding for the trail out of an estimated total of $5 million needed for the project.

So if we have success with these two grant programs, were more than halfway there, and I would say well likely begin construction in 2016, said Mr. Halwa, adding the Alliance would still need to find a bit more grant money to ensure the building begins this year.

Mr. Halwa said the Alliance will learn whether or not both grant applications are successful likely some time in April or May.

More than 600 individuals or organization have made donations to the trail already, and the trails amenity sponsorship opportunities (in which donors have their names mentioned on items such as benches and trailhead kiosks in return for their contributions) are almost sold out.

The first part of the trail to be built, if construction does begin this year, will be the 6.3-kilometre section up to Brady Creek (heading south from Invermere), according to Mr. Halwa.

The Alliance has also recently launched a new website promoting the trail and has been holding plenty of open houses and fundraising events in the past few months.

Upcoming fundraising events this spring and summer include a pig roast and barn dance at the K2 Ranch on May 21st during the Victoria Day long weekend; a golf day at Eagle Ranch on July 11th during which all greens fees will be donated to the trail; and the addition of a five-kilometre race to the Rotary Club of Invermeres annual Loop the Lake event in August, with all proceeds from the five-kilometre race being donated to the trail.

Mr. Halwa was also delighted about the recent commitment by K2 ranch owners Bob and Barb Shaunessy to put a conservation covenant on 11,000 acres (4,500 hectares, or 45 square kilometres) of their ranch, pointing out that the section of the Westside Legacy Trail passing through the couples ranch will now be guaranteed to always be in a natural state.

Theyve really been generous to the valley, said Mr. Halwa. They allowed the trail to run through their land and now, with this covenant, what you currently see on Westside Road in that area will be what youll always see from the Westside Legacy Trail. It will make it an authentic nature trail experience and that will never change. Youll never have the trail winding through golf courses or developments.

To learn more about the trail and to donate, visit www.ourtrail.org.