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Sanctioned River Valley Trail Network in development

From frequent users to first-time visitors, those heading to Lethbridge’s Oldman River Valley will soon benefit from a cohesive approach to how the trail system is mapped.

Lethbridge City Council recently voted unanimously in favour to direct Administration to proceed with the adoption of a sanctioned trail network in the river valley. Council’s decision was based on a recommendation from the June 1 Civic Works Standing Policy Committee meeting. The reference maps can be found here.

Formalizing the network will provide the following benefits to the community:

  • Better inform and educate the public about permitted trail use and prohibited activities
  • Protect culturally and ecologically sensitive areas
  • Promote recreational activity
  • Potentially reduce the amount of unapproved trail building in the river valley
  • Properly maintain sanctioned trails

“Our river valley is such an important resource to our residents and our community, so we need to promote historic resources, sustainable use and recreational activity moving forward,” says Councillor Belinda Crowson, chair of the Civic Works SPC. “Council is proud to support this project for the benefit of those who now use the trails, as well as for generations to come.”

“We are excited to establish a sanctioned river valley trail network as it will enable the City to better manage, maintain and promote responsible trail use in the river valley,” says Andrew Sommerville with Parks & Cemeteries. “We have undertaken extensive engagement and our stakeholders agreed that having a sanctioned trail network will be beneficial for all river valley users.”

In June 2020, City Council rescinded the previous Pathway 24 project D-11 from the 2018-2027 Capital Improvement Program (CIP). Since then, City Administration has had extensive engagement and consultation with local groups that utilize the coulees to discuss a strategy, framework and partnership for a unique experience in our river valley. Strategies include, but are not limited to, ways to identify, sign, map and maintain natural trails, while recognizing safety and preservation of our natural environment.

The Lethbridge Trail Alliance (LTA) has participated in the planning of trail signing at staging areas, access points, and intersections to ensure that community values are incorporated into design.

“The Lethbridge Trail Alliance is excited to see the City of Lethbridge move forward with the sanctioning of a single-track trail network within the river valley,” says Ralph Arnold, LTA president. “The LTA looks forward to partnering with the City to ensure the network works for as many people as possible while maintaining environmental and cultural conservation.”

The sanctioned trail network at this time will only be on the east side of the river valley as further study of cultural and historical resources needs to be conducted on the west side to make certain nothing is damaged.

The recent Council resolution also asks that Administration report back to Council by the end of Q3 2023 if, during the operationalization of this work, there necessitates an amendment to the Parks Bylaw. Other next steps for the next six-12 months include establishing a Communication Plan for the trail network, establishing an agreement with a private landowner as there is some overlap with their land, exploring a Maintenance Agreement with the LTA and/or other stakeholder groups, completing a River Valley Signage Plan, conducting a feasibility study of a trail connection through “Battleship Island” (river edge along west side of Lethbridge Country Club) and conducting historical and ecological assessments on west side of the Oldman River.

Funding for the river trail network will be sourced from D-10 in the 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

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