CARTS builds roads, but not for cars

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By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

If you thought it might be a good idea to take your mountain bike for a road trip to Red Deer, chances are the thought of travelling on a major highway or on a gravel road changed your mind before leaving the garage.

The Central Alberta Regional Trails Society (CARTS) might be able to help.

CARTS’ goal is to set up a trail network from Red Deer to surrounding towns, including Ponoka. Eventually someone could walk from Ponoka to Red Deer and then to Sylvan Lake, safely, if they felt the need. Residents of Ponoka already have the benefit of the old C & E trail following Highway 2A to Morningside, and people can be seen using the trail with their horses and bikes.

The committee met recently in Ponoka to discuss plans and inspect the Ponoka trail to see its size and layout. John Jacobs, a member of Alberta TrailNet, which gives feedback to CARTS, said the challenge is getting approval from Alberta Transportation.

Right now, trail development must be approved by Alberta Transportation as many proposed trails are on the highway right of way. Jacobs said other provinces have created a trail system because the public is using it, but Alberta has never been interested in doing this. People are bringing their bikes here and riding them on the highway.

Jacobs said he once had a tenant who would ride his bicycle to visit his mother in Lacombe. When he asked the man which way he went, the tenant informed him the only way to go was on the Queen Elizabeth II highway. Jacobs then decided to get involved with Alberta TrailNet and CARTS.

“I don’t think bicycles should be on the highway, and Alberta Transportation is rethinking the right of way rules,” he explained.

Many of the plans for these paths parallel highway roads, off to the side, but since there are no major trails, people are using the breakdown lane. Alberta has realized people will use the roads or the paths and if it is possible to make it safe for them, they will. Jacobs did say it has been a fairly lengthy process to raise awareness of the benefits of the trails, and the motion to get these trails built is under way.

Many municipalities are working together and the momentum is growing because of it.