The Meadowlark Trail Society, a group comprised of Beiseker and Irricana residents passionate about the development and preservation of Meadowlark Trail, recently received an Alberta TrailNet Society award, which recognizes their contributions to the Trans Canada Trail network.
According to an Alberta TrailNet Society press release, the award, which was presented at the organization’s Annual General Meeting in Edmonton on June 4, serves to recognize groups or individuals who have contributed time and effort to improve and achieve TrailNet’s mission and objectives, especially on a specific trail.
The press release said the award recognizes exceptional leadership, efforts and results on a community trail building initiative.
“The Meadowlark Trail Society was selected for its long-standing support and efforts towards the development of the Meadowlark Trail between and within the communities of Beiseker and Irricana,” read the statement. “The group has been instrumental in the creation of a new recreational and tourism amenity in the region.”
The Meadowlark Trail, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail network, was developed in partnership with Alberta Trail Map and the Trans Canada Trail. It is being built on a decommissioned Canadian Pacific Railway line that was donated to Alberta TrailNet in 2005.
According to the press release, the pathway connecting Beiseker and Irricana is the first of its kind to be developed on former CP rail lands in Alberta that were donated for development of the Trans Canada Trail and other trails.
“The Meadowlark Trail Society has helped to realize the public vision behind that donation of land and has assisted in creating a model for future trail development,” read the statement.
The process of developing the trail included change of land use and development permit approvals, stakeholder consultations, public meetings and responses to incidents and opposition to the trail, according to the statement.
“Meadowlark Trail Society members provided local knowledge that helped inform and guide planning and design of the trail,” the statement continued. “The group organized clean-up parties, inspections, weed control, fence building and mending, and contributed many hours of volunteer work on community outreach.”
Development on the 9.75-kilometre walking and cycling path began in 2019 and is nearing completion this summer, with a tentative opening scheduled for the end of July, according to Jeannette Richter, president of the Meadowlark Trail Society.
She said before the non-motorized recreational pathway can open officially, it has to meet certain criteria laid out by Rocky View County and receive the municipality's final stamp of approval.
“I think [the opening] is going to be towards the end of July,” Richter predicted. “They’re working on the signage right now – It’s looking beautiful right now, but it’s still closed to the public.”
According to Richter, the recent award is a testament to the dedication of the Meadowlark Trail Society since its inception five years ago.
“I’ve had such visionary people on my committee with me that have been so supportive and committed to this idea of having this trail between the two villages,” she said. “It’s not only for our villages – it's free for everyone. People will come out from the city as well to see what the prairie is like.
“Now that people see how beautiful it’s going to be, people are so anxious and eager to have the trail opened.”
She added throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it was difficult to get the committee together for in-person meetings, but the team managed to keep the project moving forward and never gave up on their dream of completing the Meadowlark Trail.
“[The award] also affirms the fact that we are part of a bigger dream as part of the Trans Canada Trail,” Richter said. “We are part of a bigger community, and we would never have been able to do this without Alberta TrailNet and Trans Canada Trail giving us the funding.
“It’s a real gift to us and we’ll keep it going – we formed a society and we’re not going away. We’ll keep it going and we’ll keep it beautiful.”
Richter accepted the award at the ceremony on behalf of her fellow committee members but said the plaque will be passed around so each member of the society can have a chance to hold it for a while.
“I am honoured to accept this award on behalf of my committee of dedicated volunteers who shared the vision of Meadowlark Trail with me,” she said in the press release. “Flanked on both sides by extensive grain and pasture fields and capped by an eternity of sky with only birdsong and wind to disturb the quiet, the Meadowlark Trail is an enormous boon to the communities of Beiseker and Irricana and the surrounding region.
“With its fine gravel surface, grass verge and wild grasses that go to the fence-line, it is a 10-kilometre linear park that will be enjoyed by all ages and abilities from near and far who walk and cycle.”
According to the press release, the society’s contributions to the development of the trail meant working with a strong and dedicated local trail partner who would take on operator responsibilities of maintaining and helping to manage the trail after its opening.
“Alberta TrailNet Society and the Meadowlark Trail Association are looking forward to celebrating the official opening of the Meadowlark Trail to the public use this summer,” said Linda Strong Watson, executive director of Alberta TrailNet Society in the press release.