Village of Canal Flats builds trail between two iconic bodies of water

By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

The village of Canal Flats has been hard at work creating a paved trail for residents that, once complete, will connect Columbia Lake with the Kootenay River.

Efforts on the path — which goes by the official name Shore to Shore: Kootenay to Columbia Pathway —began more than two years ago, and it is partway done already. When the work is finished, the paved trail will be roughly 3.5 kilometres and will be two metres wide for most of its duration. The project is divided up into three phases. The first phase involved making an unpaved trail north from the village centre, roughly 1.5 kilometres, almost to Tilley Park, and this was completed in 2020. The second phase will see this north section of trail paved, and the village is pursuing grants for this work. The third phase is the creating and paving the southern stretch of the trail from the village centre down to the shore of the Kootenay River.

“The vision of the Shore to Shore: Kootenay to Columbia Pathway is to channel the spirit of the founders of Canal Flats in a contemporary way. From David Thompson, who as I am told, used the current Canal Flats townsite as a portage spot from the Kootenay to Columbia to William Baillie-Grohman, a founder of the community who literally connected the two via the canal that gave our town its name, there has always been a magnetic quality between these two waterbodies in Canal Flats,” said Canal Flats chief administrative officer Adrian Bergles. “We’d like to link these popular recreation sites in Canal Flats and link our shores and beaches to the community via a healthy, non-motorized connector pathway. This will foster the physical and economic health of our town and truly set Canal Flats apart as the beach community that it is.”

The project began in 2018, after the village had a trail plan done. The village pursued a Columbia Basin Trust (CBT) grant, and at first, the vision for the project was simply to have a trail from town to Tilley Park.

“The idea originated from a desire to connect Tilley Park to the town by way of a pathway,” Berlges told the Pioneer, adding once the project got underway, it seemed a natural idea to extend the trail south, as well, if grant money can be found. “This project has been run all on grant money, so there is no cost to taxpayers,” he added.

The village secured the CBT grant and built an unpaved trail, which heads north from the village office at the town centre to the Richardson Crescent four-way stop close to Tilley Park, with work on that wrapping up last year. At the same time, through 2019 and 2020, the village did another, more robust trail plan, which among other things, laid the foundations for phases two and three of the project.

A few months ago, Canal Flats applied to another grant program — the federal government’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP) COVID-19 Resilience Infrastructure Stream — for $718,000 to do phase two of the project. Phase two has some complications owing to the nature of the terrain, and entails paving, some slope work engineering and in some places putting up a physical barrier to separate path users from traffic on Grainger Road.

“Our intention is to build a high-quality pathway that creates a first-class experience, separate from Grainger Road, which it will run parallel to, where possible, and separated by a physical barrier when running right along the roadway is necessary. This will separate pathway users from the roadway traffic, protecting their safety, and enhancing the users’ experience,” said Bergles.

The village is currently waiting to hear back about the CERIP grant. If it is successful with the grant application, and the second phase gets finished, attention on the project can turn to the third phase, which will begin at the corner of Grainger and Burns before heading to the Kootenay River.

Bergles was hesitant to offer an estimated timeline for phase two and three, noting that “it’s something that’s being built over time, as we can secure grant money for it.”

Starting the southern section of the path at the Grainger and Burns four-way stop will leave a bit of a gap in the trail of a few blocks through downtown Canal Flats, pointed out Bergles. But he added that is something the community can address in the future, noting that “as the downtown develops (closing) that gap will be part of the plan.”

The completed trail will make it easier for residents to get to the Kootenay River shore and to Tilley Park, and both spots are quite popular with locals, added Bergles. “It will build of quality of place, which is important in Canal Flats. It will be a great amenity for residents and for the community,” he said.