The City of Cranbrook is teaming up with Kimberley and the NorthStar Rails 2 Trails Society to provide maintenance of the popular route between the two municipalities for the next year.
The three entities have worked together for the last three years to enhance, promote and maintain the trail through a joint funding structure.
However, the society recently expressed concerns that their share of responsibilities wasn’t sustainable under the old agreement structure late last year, asking cities to take on more responsibilities for managing the trail.
Previously, when we had the maintenance agreement, it was hard to get a comfort level with the group,” said Chris New, the Director of Leisure Services. “We were striving for a three-year agreement, we could only get a one-year. I’m not exactly sure what the caution was with them.
We’ve had quite a support role with the group and a very good relationship with our society.
“…This is a new approach and they just would like to feel it out and we may want to feel it out as well and see if this is the right approach.”
Under the new agreement, the cities will be responsible for repair and maintenance of the trail pavement and surged, bridge, washroom buildings and underground storage tanks, gates at road crossings, signage, fencing, culverts, retaining walls, ditches, and drainage channels, rock scaling, steep slope maintenance, garbage bins, and parking areas.
New said both cities will coordinate staff for any work that needs to be done, but adds that certain jobs may be contracted out, such as washroom cleaning.
“We’re actually not anticipating a lot of staff time on the trail,” said New. “In previous years when there was a lot of staff on the trails—not our staff but contractors—we had issues on the trail, for example with overgrown clover and needing multiple mows in a year, multiple sweeps.
“That, through our society…they’re in the third year of an aggressive vegetation control management along the metre and a half swath of trail and that’s really knocked that back.”
Staff will conduct monthly inspection, however, New is anticipating that the public will help out in that regard.
“We’ve got a lot of trail ambassadors who, just by nature, will phone us when it’s a dangerous tree that’s come down or some kind of notification like that, we’ve got a really good network like that, so we don’t have to spend a lot of time on the trail,” New added.
The cities will also remain responsible for any capital improvements and major repairs to the trail.
In turn, the society will focus on the promotion of the trail—website, social media, brochures, maps—coordination of trail enhancements and special projects, such as interpretive signage, benches and kiosks, while also looking after fundraising through grants and donations.
In the past, the cities gave $10,000 each directly to the society, however, under the new agreement, the cities will retain the money and allocate it for their responsibilities. The budget, same as it was in the past, will remain the same, but the cities will also work with the society to look at long-term fundraising campaigns for major capital items.
In addition to funding from Cranbrook and Kimberley, Mayor Lee Pratt said that the RDEK has kicked in some funding, as the trail cuts through Area C, but added that he’d prefer the agreement to be between the two municipalities and the society, rather than administered globally through the regional government.
“I think it makes sense to do it ourselves because perhaps we decide we want to go test the waters on contracting it out, it’s best we have a good idea of what it’s going to cost, rather than let somebody else come and tell us what it’s going to cost,” said Pratt.
“So I think it’s a good idea to test the waters ourselves first and try to establish a cost on it ourselves.”