by LAURA KEIL
Valemount’s Cranberry Marsh has long been a refuge, not just to wetlands wildlife, but to people seeking a peaceful moment in nature – and that opportunity will soon be available to more people thanks to three phases of trail upgrades.
Gord Peters, a Valemount resident, initiated the idea for the Cranberry Marsh Mobility Trail, which has just broken ground.
“The Cranberry Marsh is a local treasure, but due to the uneven terrain and loose, sandy soil on the existing trail, people in wheelchairs, those using walkers or canes, parents with children in strollers, and even cyclists have a difficult time making their way through this beautiful area,” he says.
Peters approached the Yellowhead Outdoor Recreation Association (YORA), the Village of Valemount and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO), as the Ministry manages the area.
A working group was formed between YORA and Peters, and they developed a plan.
Phase 1 will have the mobility trail extend from the Best Western Hotel to the end of the dyke, a distance of approximately 1km. The trail will be leveled and resurfaced with a low maintenance, environmentally friendly product known as CORE Gravel stabilizer panels, which are gravel stabilizer panels filled with locally-sourced gravel.
According to a press release, the CORE Gravel system uses an interlocking honeycomb design to improve on traditional asphalt or paving stone pathways, which have a track record of problems, such as: heaving, sinking, developing surface cracks, and crumbling. The release notes that asphalt is an environmentally unfriendly product which requires a great use of manpower and equipment to install and maintain, potentially disturbing or damaging the area’s fragile ecosystem, whereas the CORE system is environmentally neutral and low maintenance.
Phase 2 will connect this trail with the new boardwalks and also resurface the sections between the boardwalks, creating 3km of accessible trail total.
“My mother loved being out in nature and was in a wheelchair for the last few years of her life,” says Peters. “She would have loved to be able to enjoy a gem like the Cranberry Marsh.”
The first phase will cost $81,575. Funding was obtained through a Columbia Basin Trust Recreation Infrastructure grant ($31,575), from the Village of Valemount through the Resort Municipality Initiative fund ($35,000), from FLNRO ($10,000), and from a grant from the Northern Development Trust’s IMAGINE Grant program ($5,000).
“We had amazing support for this project,” says Peters, noting the support of Shirley Bond, MLA for Prince George-Valemount, Spinal Cord Injury BC, and the Valemount Senior Citizens Housing Society.
The project is a partnership between the BC Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natura Resource Operations (FLNRO), the Village of Valemount, YORA, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and The Nature Trust.
The work is being carried out under the supervision of FLNRO Regional Biologist, Duncan McColl.