The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations has approved plans to construct a boardwalk that will complete the walking loop at the Starratt Wildlife Sanctuary south of Valemount.
The proposed works include the construction of approximately 350 m of trail and 570 m of boardwalk. The boardwalk would mean trail users could remain near the marsh instead of taking about 1km along 17th Ave, a residential road.
The village has made a request for proposals and will likely grant the work to a company within a month.
The bulk of boardwalk construction will happen during the early winter months, to avoid unnecessary disruption to the habitat.
The marsh is located on a 600-acre wildlife sanctuary and wetland located adjacent the Best Western Hotel just south of the Valemount village limits. More than 150 species of birds as well as beaver, otter, moose and deer call this place home. Bears have also been spotted foraging in the area.
Valemount’s sewage treatment facility outfall also flows into the marsh along the northern edge. The marsh and its associated habitats are considered rare in this dry area in the Central Rocky
Mountains and are also recognized as a aquatic environmentally sensitive area.
According to the professional environmental management plan for the marsh, trail materials should consist of permeable, non-toxic material, such as crushed aggregate with a lightly compacted aggregate sub base. Alternative materials include compacted granular soil, which results in a semipermeable, flood and erosion resistant, durable surface that requires little maintenance. Small trails should not be over designed and where possible natural surfaces should be retained and not compacted.
Many interpretive signs explain aspects of the life of the marsh. Two wildlife viewing platforms are provided adjacent to the trails. From the first viewing platform, the trail follows a dike built by Ducks Unlimited project to enhance waterfowl habitat in the marsh. Some areas of the trail are very wet and muddy.
See our feature on Cranberry Marsh/the Starratt Wildlife Sanctuary in our hiking column last week.