Additions to the Heritage River Trail System that would need the city to set aside between 1,000 and 2,000 hectares of land on the north side of the Nechako River would be good for tourism, according to a group pitching the proposal.
And it would cost the city virtually nothing, says the Nechako Ridge Trail Society.
Much of that land is already being used solely for recreational purposes. Beyond that, the group is not asking for anything except the city’s help in jumping through bureaucratic hoops, said interim chair Laurie Cook.
“We don’t have any intention, at the present time, of asking the city for any financial assistance,” he said. “We just want to see it designated as recreational land.”
The group, which is incorporating itself as a society, has been very active since it presented its plan to city council at the start of March.
They have met with roughly 20 stakeholder groups and received commitments to join the effort from four of them so far, said Cook. They had meetings scheduled with the Cranbrook Hill Greenway Society and the city’s Leisure Services Department this week. They present to the regional district on April 16 and will hold a public meeting at the University of Northern B.C. on April 24.
The land they propose is already widely used by hikers, bikers, skiers and snowmobilers, said Cook. It is mostly Crown land. He identified four private parcels of land and one woodlot that would need to be crossed.
“We have to deal with land-use conflicts,” he said. “And we need to locate more accurately the boundaries of the land involved.”
The idea is not a new one. It has been on the city’s books since at least 1984 when it developed a master trail plan for the city, Cook said. His group simply wants to get to work on the proposal.
They also hope in the long term to connect the trail with the rest of the city’s Heritage River Trail System via a suspension bridge over the Nechako River. Such a link would complete the trail system’s loop around the city.
“If we can sell them huge recreational areas with good access, that means we have a lot to offer tourists,” he said.
The society, once it is incorporated, will include all interest groups and trail users and would run similar to the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club, he said.
Council at its March 3 meeting directed city staff to prepare a report on the feasibility of the project and what, if any, involvement the city might have.
Tom Madden, director of leisure services, said the city has given Cook’s group information it compiled on a similar idea about a year ago. It will also provide support in the development of the proposal.
City staff will likely report to council on the proposal sometime during the summer after the Nechako Ridge Trail Society has had the chance to develop it further and meet with stakeholders and the public.