Trail ride petitions MLAs to support Iron Horse
Politicians from across the province gathered in St. Paul on Aug. 16, offering those involved with the Iron Horse Trail an opportunity to show off the work and effort that’s been put into the trail.
Members of Alberta TrailNet encouraged a number of PC MLAs and other dignitaries to appreciate the hard work and beauty of the trail, as well as the dire need for government support for repairs and maintenance, considering that all the work done on the trail is the result of a volunteer effort.
The ride began with a short presentation by TrailNet directors Jerry Bidulock and Marvin Bjornstad, who spoke on the founding and building of the trail, and necessity of government financial assistance in maintaining the trail. They mentioned the volunteer hours that go into the trail, and the need to rebuild important structures like the damaged Beaver River trestle near Cold Lake.
“The trail is a year-round operation. There are more than people using quads on it. People use it to walk, ski, snowshoe, and ride horses. In the 13 km we'll be travelling down the trail, you'll only be seeing five per cent, a glimpse of how nice it is,” said Bidulock.
He and Bjornstad stressed that the grants Alberta TrailNet has been applying for are helpful, but have not been sufficient to cover the immense costs of the work required on the trail. The presentation also explained how organizations like the Iron Horse Trail Grooming Association work cooperatively with Alberta TrailNet to maintain the trail.
“Some of our members have worked with trail advisory committees, and there are some problems we need to solve. Trail legislation is hanging in the balance,” said Bjornstad.
“When you're on the trail today, please understand that nobody got paid for the work they did - everything is done by volunteerism. I can guarantee volunteers don't even have time to enjoy it themselves,” said Ray Danyluk, a past MLA for the area. “It's true volunteerism that keeps the trails in place, and from growing in.”
After the presentation, everyone took the trail, donning helmets and climbing into ATVs en route in an easterly direction from the St. Paul staging area, making several stops along the way to take in the scenery, and learn about what kind of land the trail runs through.
Marianne Price, administrative coordinator with the Iron Horse Trail, explained the importance and popularity of geocaching along the trail. The hobby has increased traffic along the trail in a big way, with there being over a thousand caches to find, hidden along its length, she said.
The destination for the trail ride was the staging area at St. Edouard, about 13 km east of St. Paul. Everyone involved sat down for dinner around a campfire.
At the end of the trail ride, MLAs expressed that they felt the Iron Horse, and trails in general, are important things to maintain and create in the province.
“I'm a trail person. I go into the bush quite often to quad. It's a good idea, and lots of people with quads out here need somewhere to go, or they'll be going all over someone else's private property,” said Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA Genia Leskiw. “Kudos to the volunteers and all their work.”
Vermillion-Lloydminster MLA and Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation Richard Starke explained that he believes parks in Canada play a large role in connecting Canadians to the wilderness.
“There's fantastic scenery all along the way - it's gorgeous. There are so many beautiful spots in this province. At certain times, even the light can make things just amazing. I like to carry a camera with me for moments like that, like when we stopped at Three Pole Hill on the way over here. It's not about driving, or the vehicle you use - it's all about just getting out there,” said Starke.
He added, “I'm so proud of the people who came together to work on this trail, and the professionalism it takes to do this kind of thing.
The trail ride “makes me understand why people want to protect it," said Vegreville-Fort Saskatchewan MLA Jackie Fenske. “I'm going to work to be a thorn in the sides of ministers to get this done.”
“Thanks for your amazing hospitality,” said Don Scott, MLA for Fort McMurray-Conklin and Associate Minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation.
“I know how valuable recreational trails are, having spent so much of my childhood in the woods with my dad.”