Text by Steve Hubrecht

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Photo by Ryan Watmough

The final bit of paving on the Markin MacPhail Westside Legacy Trail was finished recently, capping off a $9-million project nearly a decade in the making. The Greenways Trail Alliance, which has taken the trail from a mere idea to a nearly complete project, first began publicly discussing its plans for a paved recreational path between Invermere and Fairmont Hot Springs as far back as nine years ago. Significant fundraising efforts began in 2015 and ground broke on the first segment two years later. 

By 2020, almost the whole 25-kilometre trail was paved and Greenways held an official grand

opening event, during which it unveiled the iconic Last Spoke sculpture. Almost the whole trail was paved at that time, but not quite the entire thing. About halfway down the path, a large beaver pond interrupted the trail and forced pedestrians, cyclists and other trail users out onto Westside Road for a few hundred metres, before they could rejoin the separated recreational trail. This ‘pop out’ was intended as a temporary solution and, for the past two years, Greenways has been building a detour around the beaver pond. It is this detour that is now paved, meaning people can travel along the trail without ever having to navigate the narrow shoulders of Westside Road alongside high-speed vehicle traffic.

Greenways project manager Lianne Lang said some work remains.

It’s not quite finished yet, but it is a really nice accomplishment to have the pavement down,” Lang told the Pioneer.

The beaver pond detour has added 1.3 kilometres to the total length of the trail. The original plan had been to have the Westside Legacy Trail in that area built in the provincial right-of-way beside Westside Road, but the pond made that impossible. Local residents Bob and Barb Shaunessy purchased the land surrounding the beaver pond and donated the looping right-of-way through which the new detour now runs to Greenways.

Lang was out of town when the final paving happened but, as soon as she returned to the valley, she hopped on her bicycle for a test ride.

It flows very nicely,” she said. “It’s a beautiful section of trail and very peaceful in there.”

A bit of work still remains: The trail needs to be edged for safety, a bench needs to be installed and a short, steep uphill section of trail will be decommissioned.

The edging will involve putting down topsoil, seeding and adding gravel so there is no abrupt drop-off at the edge of the trail. Decommissioning of the short uphill section of trail will begin this week and Lang advised trail users to keep a watch out for contractors at work in the area. 

Greenways is planning its next major project — the Radium-to-Invermere trail — and surveying work on the Eagle Ranch section of the trail will begin soon.