Westside Legacy Trail project progresses

A green space geared toward exercise aficionados may soon be on the horizon.

A green space geared toward exercise aficionados may soon be on the horizon.

Columbia Valley Greenways Trail Alliance (CVGTA) executive director Mark Halwa updated roughly 100 mountain bikers, hikers and cross country skiers about the Lake Windermere Westside Legacy Trail application at the 2015 CVGTA Annual General Meeting (AGM) held in the Lions Hall (at the crossroads) on Tuesday, June 23rd.

“The trail is completely surveyed,” said Mr. Halwa. “If you’ve driven down Westside Road in the past number of months, you can see where the entrance in and out of the right of ways are. It’s completely marked and this is the most exciting part: All of that land was given to us for free. There was not one land owner asking for 10 cents for a 25 kilometre trail, which was pretty interesting.”

The 25 kilometre trail is “moderately flat” with “challenging sections,” according to Mr. Halwa.

It will be located on the west side of Lake Windermere parallel to Westside Road and is anticipated to be five metres wide with a three meter paved width, featuring a painted centre line.

The goal of the project is to connect communities from Invermere to Fairmont Hot Springs while stretching across private and Crown land and within Ministry of Transportation right-of-ways.

“We have to go in and out of right of ways to get around really steep areas,” explained Mr. Hawla. “Despite that, I know there will still be some 28-year-old Mom in a chariot with two little kids behind who says, ‘Damn, that Mark Halwa. This is just way too steep,’ but that’s one of the (characteristics) that makes (our) trail (design) so different, and I think will be a really good thing (for the community).”

He added that the trail would be a unique landmark for the region and may boost tourism numbers.

In addition, the CVGTA is working with the Regional District of the East Kootenay (RDEK) to make the designated area a regional park, allowing RDEK to assume responsibility for liability and maintenance.

“That’s a big thing, to make it a regional park and bring it into their park system,” continued Halwa, noting there are plans to bring attention to the project with celebrity status.

Cory Sarich, a former Calgary Flame from 2013, suffered a life-threatening bicycling accident on the Windermere Loop Road on July 21, 2014.

After taking his hybrid bike along the challenging 40-minute valley workout, an oncoming grey Ford F-350 truck made a left-hand turn in front of him without signalling. Mr. Sarich tried to brake but ultimately lost control of the bike and slid underneath the vehicle on his stomach.

The accident left Mr. Sarich with five cracked vertebrae, burns on his shoulder and wrist from the truck’s muffler, road rash, swollen body parts and a significant head injury.

After the accident and long road to recovery, Mr. Sarich agreed to represent the CVTGA as the Honorary Chairman of the Westside Legacy Trail Fundraising Committee to advocate for safe biking trails in the Columbia Valley to move cyclists away from busy streets.

Moreover, Mr. Sarich will be featured on the promotional YouTube video that is being created to bring awareness to the project and help fundraise $4 million to build the trail.

There will also be a guest performance from Invermere RCMP Staff Sgt. Marko Shehovac and his team of officers along with some students in a two-to-three minute video.

Mr. Hawla remains optimistic that construction may begin this summer following the July 25th CVGTA fundraiser hosted by the Lake Windermere Westside Legacy Trail Fundraiser at the K2 Ranch.

“If we do relatively well with that, we’ll be able to start construction this summer,” said Mr. Hawla. “But within the next few weeks, once we get some signatures on the paper, we’ll have a trail. The land is ours, forever, and it will be maintained by the RDEK and the liability taken on forever. It will be a community asset for generations to come.”

For more information, visit www.greenways.ca.