The following content was sent to the Board of Bike Calgary by Don Hollinshead.
The federal government is prepared to spend an estimated $86.4 million to build a pathway between the Town of Jasper and the Icefields Interpretive Centre. For the most part, the trail would be 20 to 30 metres away from the highway, providing a comfortable and secure experience for visitors to enjoy beautiful views and vistas, while ensuring environmental impacts of important wilderness areas are minimized.
The public consultation phase of this project has begun. At a recent meeting at Winsport Centre in Calgary, members of the conservation community, opposed to the creation of this trail, dominated discussion.
"Environmental groups have criticized the plan, saying it would fragment and destroy habitat of grizzlies and endangered caribou and displace other wildlife. Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society has called on Parks Canada to cancel the project and reinvest the money into restoring science and conservation programs.*"
It is likely that the other 3 public consultations went the same way. So it is critical that if the cycling community wants to see the pathway built that its input be heard strongly. Don't wait. Although there is no closing date given in the online feedback form, this opportunity for input could disappear at any time.
- The feedback form for this project can be completed and submitted here.
- Background info, including maps, are found here.
Here is my brief vision for such a trail:
Cyclists who come from all over the world to experience the Icefields Parkway would have an alternative to the shoulder of Highway 93, especially on the climbs that place them in close proximity to large motor-homes.
Cyclists can access the trail (located 30 m from the highway) at the bottom of climbs and move back to the highway shoulder for descents where their speed on the pathway would be dangerous to other slower users.
Strategically located benches along the pathway (e.g., at the tops of hills) would give cyclists a chance to catch their breath and admire the scenery for which the Parks are famous. Rather than being encased in glass and steel and traveling at 80 km/h, the trail would give Parks visitors an inviting alternative and a more intimate means to enjoy and interpret the park.
Multi-day cycle cyclists would be able to drop into campgrounds without reservations and find a site for the night.
Families could rent bikes in Jasper and ride an out and back along the trail as a day trip.
Based on the success of the Banff Legacy Trail, there is no reason to suspect that the Icefields Trail will be any less successful. True, there isn't a town at either end yet. But if this trail is built it would be reasonable to expect that the pathway would be extended all the way to Lake Louise as the next phase.