The City of Quesnel is hoping a grant will help fund much-needed upgrades to the Sugarloaf portion of the Riverfront Trail in West Quesnel.
The City will be applying for a 2020 Active Transportation Grant to develop a Sugarloaf Multi-Use Pathway after council approved the application and approved contributing $174,000 of the cost of construction from the City’s Gas Tax reserves at the Feb. 18 council meeting.
The Riverfront Trail connection in West Quesnel between North Fraser Drive and Sugarloaf Dog Park is failing, and the trail was at a substandard level in terms of accessibility, safety and maintenance prior to failing, Tanya Turner, the City’s director of development services, explained in her report to council.
This proposed project will see this section of the Riverfront Trail system upgraded to a higher standard than would be achievable without the assistance of grant funding, she noted.
“This section of the Riverfront Trail extending from North Fraser Drive up to the Sugarloaf Dog Park has been deteriorating and was never constructed to current width and surfacing standards to ensure accessibility and safety,” wrote Turner. “The use of the Active Transportation Infrastructure Grant Program to upgrade this trail will ensure we maintain this vital link to our current system and continue to build our brand and marketing strategy as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts.”
The existing trail was constructed in approximately 1993, and it is rudimentary, unsafe and impassable for a portion of the year, as well as not being a multi-use pathway, engineers from Urban Systems noted in their memo in support of the grant application. The existing trail is approximately 290 metres long and includes a 170-metre-long section at a sustained 10-per-cent grade. The existing timber retaining walls along this steep section of trail have deteriorated and are in poor condition, they noted.
“The City has identified that the existing trail width is inadequate and that the deteriorated retaining walls and exposed steep slide slopes pose a safety risk to trail users,” wrote project engineer and principal Rick Collins and project engineer Robert D’Amours. “The gravel/dirt surface for the steep portion restricts connectivity, and this is the only section of the City’s Riverfront Trail system that is not a suitable, paved trail.”
The proposed multi-use pathway will be paved and will be 3.2 metres wide to allow for machine paving and for plowing in the winter. The path will have a grade of five to 10 per cent in areas, and to promote accessibility as much as possible, the engineers say there will be flatter resting areas every 50 metres in the steeper trail areas. They are also proposing a post and rail fence along the entire downslope side of the path.
In their memo, Collins and D’Amours note that the City will be able to properly maintain the new multi-use path, including plowing in the winter and spring sweeping to remove accumulated gravels, tasks that are currently not possible on the steeper section of the existing path. As well, trail sightlines will improve, which should make the site less secluded and therefore safer.
Matt Thomas, the City’s director of Public Works operations, says it usually takes four to six people one to 1.5 hours to clear all the snow on the current trail, and they can’t always get to it because it does take so long.
Because of this difficulty in maintaining the trail and keeping it safe, Mayor Bob Simpson says it could get to the point where they would have to put barricades on the trail so people wouldn’t use it in the winter because of the liability issues.
Coun. Ron Paull wondered if increased lighting would be considered for the trail upgrade.
“This is a pretty pricey project, and I don’t see lighting included,” he said.
Turner says this does not include lighting, and the cost of adding lighting would be about the same as the total project cost.
Since they will be digging up the ground anyways, Paull wondered if they could make it “light-ready” for potentially putting in lighting at a future date as a way to make the trail safer, and Thomas says this can be included in the discussions.