Construction is well underway on the Meadowlark Trail, a 9.75-kilometre walking and cycling path connecting Irricana and Beiseker, but it won’t be opening its gates to the public until next spring.
According to Jeannette Richter, president of the Meadowlark Trail Society, before the non-motorized recreational pathway can open officially, it has to meet certain criteria laid out by Rocky View County, including controls and fences, which will take some time.
“Mother Nature has been really kind to us this fall and [the construction workers] had nice weather, but I imagine one more month and then it’ll be too cold to do anything and to be out there working,” Richter said on Oct. 28.
She added the trail heads in Beiseker and Irricana are nearing completion, with work being done to seed the lawn to grass and plant eight-foot aspen trees, which are native to the area.
Workers have also been busy scraping off topsoil from surrounding fields, putting down loam on the sides of the trail, and installing Geotech fabric to prevent weeds from popping up.
Richter said her one regret over the course of the construction of the trail is that it was not open to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We had to close [the trail] for safety reasons, to secure our bridges, because they were vandalized within weeks of [installation],” she said. “And that meant by securing the whole trail, people couldn’t walk on there.
“[That is] my big regret these last two years, but it’s going to be ready next summer.”
The idea of installing a pedestrian- and cycling-only pathway to connect the communities of Beiseker and Irricana has been in the works since at least 2018, when the Meadowlark Trail Society first presented the idea to redesignate the land to Rocky View County council.
In the following years, Rocky View County council approved two separate development permits for the trail's construction in 2019 and 2021. The first permit was necessary to replace a culvert across a drainage ditch, as well as construct two bridges to cross the Rosebud River and Crossfield Creek.
Richter added excitement is brewing in Beiseker in anticipation of the new trail’s opening, along with other community additions such as an all-weather bathroom in the shape of a red grain elevator, a gazebo, and flags and signs in honour of the Village’s 100th birthday and centennial celebration this year.
She said the society also intends to put up additional amenities, such as benches and informational kiosks at the trailheads, to educate trail-users about the project, what wildlife they will likely encounter and the local history of the region.
“It’s exciting for people to see the activity of men working [at the trail] and things are happening,” she said. “Our town is looking pretty, children on bicycles have found the trail, and I can just see they’re excited.”
She added children travel to Beiseker School from the nearby town of Irricana by school bus, and with the addition of the new trail, they will be able to ride their bicycles to and from school when the weather permits.
“I think it’s going to be so good for [the kids] health-wise, and also they can sleep in in the morning if they don’t have a class in high school,” she said. “They can come later and it’s really going to be so wonderful.”
Richter said she encourages community members to exercise patience and understanding as they await the opening of the trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail network, and is developed in partnership with Alberta Trail Map and the Trans Canada Trail.
The Meadowlark Trail is being built on a decommissioned Canadian Pacific Railway line that was donated to Alberta TrailNet in 2005.
“[The trail] comes as a big gift to the communities of Irricana and all the people around who can come here and enjoy the beautiful trail when it’s finished,” she said.
Carmen Cundy, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @carmenrcundy
The Meadowlark Trail is one step closer to coming to fruition, after Rocky View County (RVC) council unanimously approved a development permit application for Phase 3 of the project at the Feb. 23 meeting.
Mar 1, 2021 4:00 PM By: Scott Strasser with Rockview Weekly.
The Meadowlark Trail connecting Beiseker and Irricana is anticipated to be ready for users later this year, according to Meadowlark society chair Jeannette Richter. The Meadowlark Trail is one step closer to coming to fruition, after Rocky View County (RVC) council unanimously approved a development permit application for Phase 3 of the project at the Feb. 23 meeting.
Jeannette Richter, the chair of the Meadowlark Society, said the group was excited to see RVC council's continued support of the initiative.
“It’s such a relief to have this part of it over with,” she said after the meeting. “Now, we’re really looking forward to working and building the trail.”
The Meadowlark Trail is a proposed pedestrian and cycling path that will connect the communities of Beiseker and Irricana. The 7.5-kilometre, non-motorized trail will run alongside a decommissioned Canadian Pacific Railway line, which was donated to Alberta TrailNet in 2005.
“The gravel trail has been designed to accommodate non-motorized users, including pedestrians and cyclists,” said Jacqueline Targett, with RVC’s planning and development services, during the Feb. 23 staff presentation to council. “It’s not proposing to permit motorized use of any kind, or equestrian riders at this time.”
The project has been in the works for three years. Originally slated to be completed in 2020, Richter said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the County’s approval of the Meadowlark Society’s most recent development permit.
Prior work included the installation of two pedestrian bridges over Crossfield Creek and the Rosebud River, as well as the replacement of a culvert across a drainage ditch near Beiseker. According to Ricther, the work was completed in November 2019.
Now that the development permit for the rest of the project has been approved, Richter said bid tenders will be put out regarding the construction of the actual trail, which involves installing fencing and laying down the pulverized-gravel surface.
Construction of the path is anticipated to wrap up later this summer, according to Richter.
“We have to do some landscaping – planting trees and so on, to provide privacy to the adjacent landowners who had concerns about that,” she said. “We’ll be putting up fences to make sure the trail is only open to walkers and cyclists and we’ll be securing the trail before we open it.”
In the future, Richter said the society also intends to put up additional amenities, such as benches and informational kiosks at the trailheads, to educate trail-users about the project, what wildlife they will likely encounter and the local history of the region.
Area residents have mostly been in support of the project. According to Targett’s presentation at the Feb. 23 council meeting, RVC received 26 letters in support of the Meadowlark Trail from nearby landowners and one anonymous letter in opposition.
Richter said public consultation has been an important part of the Meadowlark Society’s work since first proposing the project.
“We’ve really tried to build bridges and accommodate adjacent landowners for the past three years,” she said. “The trail is going to be beautiful for people to walk on. It will not be an annoyance to adjacent landowners.”
Considering the stay-at-home directives and the gathering and economic restrictions that have been in place for much of the pandemic, Richter said she hopes Irricana and Beiseker residents will embrace the new multi-use pathway, once it’s completed.
“I’m really looking forward to having this open for people in Beiseker, Irricana and our area who have been locked down during COVID,” she said. “Now, this is going to be something they’ll be able to do. It won’t cost anything, it’s really close by and they can go out there to enjoy the beautiful prairie.
“If you come in the spring, you can hear the meadowlarks really singing their hearts out.”