Residents can fill out an online survey so RRTS can find out what’s working and what isn’t.
After receiving a grant to fund a 10-year strategic development plan, the Riverland Recreations Trail Society (RRTS) is asking users of Alberta’s famous Iron Horse Trail to help them understand what can be done to improve the trail moving forward.
The project is estimated to cost around $70,000, and has been 50 per cent funded through Trans Canada Trail, and the RTSS is hoping to identify the wants and needs of the different users of the trail, including hikers, motorists, cyclists, and horseback riders.
Iron Horse is one of the largest continuous trails in the province, stretching all the way from Cold Lake to Waskatenau with a branch toward Heinsburg for a total length of 300km, with the section from Heinsburg to Waskatenau receiving attention.
The RRTS is asking those who frequent the trail to complete an online survey available from July to August 13th to help them know where they need to focus their efforts, something they’ve struggled to accomplish in the past.
“The RRTS has spent a lot of time looking after maintenance, safety issues, etc, so the development of things has sat in the same state it’s been in since the railway tracks came off 20 odd years ago,” said Marianne Janke, administrative coordinator for the trail.
“Other than some of the staging developments, there’s hasn’t been much work done to the trail in other areas. We’re looking to get feedback on what could use improvement, what’s working, what isn’t, all that kind of stuff.”
Janke has said that there’s nothing in particular the office will be paying attention to, instead working on specific requests and issues brought up from survey reports.
A mapping tool which can be used in place of the survey has also been included, which users can utilize to identify specific areas of the trail and what they would like to see done with them.
Amenities that could be installed on the trail include lookout towers, outhouses, and camping areas among others.
“We’re hoping to make it a bit less rustic,” said Janke. “Someone riding a horse is going to have different needs than someone driving a vehicle. We want to know if a site with a fire pit and an outhouse will be sufficient for travellers.”
Due to the length of the trail and the small size of the office in charge of it, collecting feedback has been notoriously difficult, and while there has been some success as of late, more information is needed in order for a fully formed plan to take shape.
The RTSS’ end goal with the strategic plan is to encourage more locals and tourists to take to the trail in the future, which Janke has called a major tourist asset for the lakeland.
“The funding for the strategic plan is from the Trans Canada Trail and gives us the opportunity to figure out what we can all do to further develop our trail into a national attraction in our region,” said RRTS president Marvin Bjornstad.
“The more responses we get, the better of an idea we’ll have for what communities are looking for,” said Janke.
“Whatever kind of person you are, a trail user, a group member that travels the trail, or even someone that hasn’t used it because it’s not convenient, we would like to hear from you.”