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 spring, and 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.
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