By Nikki Jamieson Sunny South News
Lethbridge County council has committed to supporting the Link Pathway.
During their regular Aug. 16 meeting, Lethbridge County council discussed the Link Pathway project.
The Link Pathway Project aims to connect the Town of Coaldale and the City of Lethbridge with a pedestrian pathway that will run along the SMRID irrigation canal. Construction on the pathway is expected to begin in 2019, with the phase one component running from southwest corner of Coaldale to Vista Meadows, which would mark about the halfway point of the roughly 14 km pathway.
Following a delegation representing the Link Pathway Society during council’s June 7 meeting, council had directed administration to bring back a report regarding their requests for council to commit $150,000 — conditional on receiving provincial grant funding for the project, of which Larry Randle, director of community services for the county, said they had received $215,000 — and to appoint a council representative to the society’s board.
Now returning to the matter, Randle said that the two requests are supported by county administration. Back in May 2017, County council had passed a motion to enter into an agreement with the society, to maintain the pathway for $1 a year upon the pathways completion. The project is expected to cost and estimated $4 million.
In addition to the provincial grant, so far, the City of Lethbridge has committed $250,000 in-kind support to the pathway, Coaldale is contributing $100,000 cash and $100,000 in-kind donations, SMRID the use of the canal right-of-way for the pathway, MPE is contributing all surveying and preliminary engineering work and Alvin Fritz Architect is contributing the architectural design work and $25,000 towards the project. The society continues to fundraise for the pathway.
“This is an opportunity for Lethbridge County to provide a cash contribution toward the project, and if that were to occur, that would support a couple of pillars in the Lethbridge County’s strategic plan — that being strong relationships within the region and supporting an excellent quality of life for all citizens,” said Randle.
“In addition, working with our regional partners, helping make the pathway a reality would really help provide a safe regional recreational amenity to help people enjoy the benefits of physical outdoor activity.”
Acknowledging concerns with liability regarding trails, Randle said a year ago they presented a trail liability opinion from Jubilee Insurance to council. They said they had only seen two or three claims involving trails, despite insuring hundreds of kilometers of trails across Alberta.
“Thankfully having the County take on the liability for a pathway under these circumstances is quite easy and usually how we have seen it done in other municipalities. What we would need to do is add each owner along the path whose property it crosses as an Additional Named Insured under the General Liability Policy but only with respect to the operation of the “Link Pathway” (if this is the final name of the pathway),” reads an excerpt of the opinion.
“By adding them as an Additional Named Insured (ANI) the County is indicating that they are taking responsibility for the liability regarding the pathway regardless of whose land it is on. It does not extend coverage to any operations beyond the pathway and it does not cost the County anything to add the coverage. The County and land owners are protected equally.”
As for financial implications, the County’s Recreation Reserve is $91,350 and generally doesn’t receive an annual top up. A total of $4,325 is drawn from it each year, which is contributed to the Southern Alberta Summer Games. The Municipal Reserve balance is $786,000, and receives annual contributions from landowners, who subdivide their property and contribute a calculated amount toward it.
The Municipal Government Act (MGA) states that the reserve funds can be used for “a public park” and/or “a public recreation area”, the latter of which the proposed pathway could be considered. Once the pathway is completed, the County could potentially use these funds from to perform upkeep on the pathway.
When asked what the cost of maintenance for the pathway, Rick Bacon, director of municipal services for the county, didn’t recall what the exact numbers were, but the upkeep included path side mowing, some sweeping, sign maintenance, weed control and life-cycle costing, which Bacon said would likely be “very minimal” as pathways typically have a long life-cycle.
Coun. Klass Vander Veen asked if there were any concerns associated with a major canal running right along the pathway. Randle said that the insurance company was aware of where the trail would be situated, and they didn’t raise any “additional concern” over the proximity to the canal.
“As with any activity, there’s some inherent risk and danger to anybody, but at the same time, again, they didn’t identify, in there mind, any kind of elevated risk, concern that would tell them, in their minds, that they wouldn’t be interested in helping out the project, from the insurance perspective, if and when the County goes to it,” said Randle.
Coun. Morris Zeinstra noted that they would be able to justify their support of the pathway from a recreation angle, but expressed concern over how their ratepayers would react to it, as they have other issues to take care of in the County, and there are other recreation centres they can access.
“I know I’ve been approached by some of them already you know, about that pathway,” said Zeinstra. “Not too many of them were very positive about it, but if you look at where it’s going to be, between Coaldale and Lethbridge, and where it is going to be and some of the things they are going to put in place. The committee was talking about at one time they’re going to put up signage along down there, what’s growing down there — you’ll be surprised how many people don’t know what sugar beets are, and there could be a big field down there.
“I’m not opposed to it, but the big thing is how is the ratepayers, how are they going to accept this pathway? That is my big concern.”
Vander Veen suggested that they wait until they’ve made a decision on another recreation project before they commit funds to the pathway.
Coun. Tory Campbell said although he understood some of the safety concerns and public perception of the project, he noted that in a lot of community projects, they couldn’t use their municipal reserves.
“This is an opportunity, as far as I think (Randle) indicated. This would qualify and give us an opportunity to use some of those funds, because we are taking those from, those are landowner contributions, this wouldn’t necessary be taxpayer dollars, I think we can draw, or I can draw, a line there,” said Tory.
“I think it’s incumbent upon us to spend some of those dollars. We have over $786,000, I think we are, it’s incumbent upon us to spend some of those dollars on recreation projects. At this point, like I said, I’m conflicted, I don’t think I can whole-heartily support the ($150,000) towards this project, but I do think it’s something we have to look really hard at and consider.”
County CAO Ann Mitchell informed council Randle and herself had met with Link pathway committee chair Henry Doeve, and confirmed that the provincial funding, although not announced yet, was in place and the committee has also hired a CEO to be in charge of fundraising.
Coun. Steve Campbell said he believed that they’ve used Municipal Reserve funds in the past for pathways in Nobleford and Picture Butte, and it was “very important that we start spending some money to do good in our hometown”, instead of in other municipalities. Reeve Lorne Hickey noted that one problem with committing the money now though is that they don’t know what their in-kind contribution will be, as they don’t have the pathway’s maintenance cost numbers.
“It’s just, if it’s going to be $100,000 a year to do that (maintenance), do you see it as that much?” asked Hickey. “It’s hard to make a decision on ($150,000) if we’re already giving $100,000 a year.”
Addressing council from the gallery after being invited to, Doeve said that the committee saw it as a four-season, multi-use pathway, although they don’t see it to have a “park-like setting”, with the possible exception of the Vista Meadows area, which is already maintained by the County.
“We want it to be a rustic trail, we want it to be that kind of back-to-nature experience for people, so we don’t want it overly manicured, we don’t want it overly kept,” said Doeve. “We see it mainly as maybe some garbage receptacles that need to be picked up once in a while, maybe there might be some crack fill-in over time, but this will be on a reasonable basis.
“It is hard to put a number on it, but we don’t see it anywhere close to $100,000 a year, maybe $100 dollars a month accumulative throughout the year.”
Council unanimously passed a motion that one member of council will be appointed to the Link Pathway Society Committee.
Council passed a motion to contribute $150,000 to the Link Pathway Society for the construction of a pathway through Lethbridge County linking the Town of Coaldale to the City of Lethbridge, and that the funds be drawn from the Municipal Reserve, conditional on the Society receiving provincial grant funding for the project.