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Celebrating Grand Forks' city trails

Shiloh Freer, of Son Ranch Timber, built the kiosk for the new trails plaza near the Black Train Bridge; Photo, Mona Mattei
The culmination of over 10 years of work will be celebrated at the grand opening of the new Grand Forks city trails system next Saturday. From the early years of working to acquire land rights for the Canadian Pacific Railway’s abandoned lines, to finding solutions for ownership of the Black Train Bridge, and fundraising challenges a small group of dedicated volunteers have kept local trails on the agenda for the city, the province, and even the federal government. This week they celebrate their success resulting in a series of trails winding through town offering locals and visitors an opportunity to enjoy local beauty.
 
Local dignitaries, representatives from the provincial government, the chair of the Trans Canada Trails, and members of the 39th Combat Engineers will all participate in the grand opening celebration starting at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at the new trail plaza across the street from the Black Train Bridge. In case you need a reminder, pipers from the Grand Forks Pipes and Drums will be leading people from all around Grand Forks through the trails to the plaza with their distinct music.
 
“I feel like I won the lottery!” explained George Longden, current chair of the Grand Forks Trails Committee and one of the volunteers who have worked on the project for over 10 years along with other key volunteers including City Councillor Chris Moslin, and Christy Luke. “The various steps along the way, the deal that allowed the city to gain control of the bridge and the stretch of the rail bed from the bridge to the highway – that was a major step."
 
Longden explained that the projects they have undertaken over the years have been funded through various grants from provincial, federal, and local governments, the Trans Canada Trail Foundation, the 39th Combat Engineers, and local fundraising. Much of the funding was used to hire locals to complete work or provide supplies.
 
Calvin Lamontagne has been the contractor responsible for the latest trail and plaza development, Eagle Mountain Metalworks did the railing and plaque for the bridge, lumber for the bridge decking was locally supplied, Beyond Graphix is doing up the map for the kiosk, the Boundary Woodworkers Guild volunteered to refinish the old tool shed that will be located at the plaza and Son Ranch Timber built the new kiosk.
 
“People really respond to the planning, the fact that it’s not just a fly by night thing like let’s buy some cheap benches,” explained Longden when asked about the cost involved in the projects. “I think that the city has done a great job with setting those themes in place so that these things will be around for 100 years. If you spend the money up front, certainly it costs more but you get something that will last.”
 
Still on the go for the trails group – working to get an easement for the trial running north from Highway #3 to Coalshute Road. This section is still owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway and, despite attempts over the years, remains a section that the group cannot refinish.
 
“One of the rationales for being involved and doing the development is, to first of all, to feature the beauty that we live in. I don’t think there are sights and sounds like (the ones along the trail) in most large centers. You have the river flowing by, I love to walk there at night under the lights – it’s magical. But it’s also an attempt to try and get people out of their vehicles and get them walking. It’s good to be outside, walking, enjoying the sights and sounds and the incredible beauty that we live in.”

Events start at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 14 at the new plaza across from the black train bridge. Park your cars at City Park, the arena or Dr. Perley Elementary school and walk down to the celebration.