esterday, the West Bragg Creek all-season trail system was officially opened by Bragg Creek resident and local MLA Cam Westhead. The culmination of more than ten years of planning by a group of dedicated volunteers, the event was attended by MP John Barlow, AEP Deputy Minister Bill Werry, Trans Canada Trail CEO Deborah Apps, Alberta TrailNet and by many of the key volunteers from the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association.
The build-out of these trails is a blueprint for other regions on what can be achieved when a volunteer organization sets out to work with government and stakeholders to design and build a well-planned trail system to meet the need of the local outdoor recreation community.
The original trail system designed by Don Gardner in 1978/79, during the development of Kananaskis Country was a mix of cut-lines, seismic lines, logging haul roads and a few purpose built trails. The trails were for winter use only and were maintained and groomed by Alberta Parks staff. Budget cutbacks resulted in volunteers from Bragg Creek assisting park staff in grooming in 2006 and a 10 year Partnership Agreement with Alberta Parks was signed in 2009.
Increased summer use of the trails led to a commitment to develop an all-season trail plan, and to the formation of a Public Advisory Committee with a broad base of stakeholders and interest groups. After two rounds of public consultation in late 2009 and early 2010, the West Bragg Creek All Season Trail Plan, written under contract by Don Cockerton, was approved by Alberta Parks and ESRD in September 2010.
Since then about 70 km of new trails, designed & flagged by local trail designers and volunteers, were approved by Alberta Parks with input from staff and local stakeholders. By the end of 2014 some 500 volunteers put in 12,500 hours along with paid contractors to build 44 km of all season trails, 14 km of snowshoe trails, 4 km of new XC trails and a 5 km skate ski loop. Twenty kilometers of XC ski trails were repaired, upgraded, brushed or rerouted. To fund this work the GBCTA raised about $700,000 from grants, corporate and individual donations, fundraising events and sale of maps.
This year the 5.5 km all-season Snakes & Ladders trail is being constructed, Demi-Tel has been cleared and upgraded and refinements are being done to the snowshoe and ski trails. Volunteer hours now total a staggering 14,000. For the future the GBCTA is already constructing portions of the Trans Canada Trail to link the trail system to Bragg Creek and to link Bragg Creek to Cochrane and Canmore. An ambitious plan that involves another $700,000 of fundraising. It is notable that the Greater Bragg Creek Trails Association is 100% run by volunteers and has no staff.
And the result of all this effort? The parking lot was too small to accommodate the 129,000 visitors in 2014, and there will almost certainly be more visitors this year. There are plans to enlarge the parking lot and possibly build a warming hut. What a success story!
Much of this blog is based on a presentation by Alf Skrastins at TrailFest 2015.