By Erika Mathieu
Westwind Weekly News
Lethbridge County council defeated a motion to approve the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the entire route and scope of the 15 km Link Pathway project.
Previously, council had passed a motion to approve the MOU for phase one of the project, during the Sept. 1 council meeting. Peter Casurella appeared before council during the Nov. 3 delegation and said, “We’ve done an awful lot; we have a complete route with sign-off from all of the stakeholders that have land tied up in the provision of the pathway route.” He added there are only six stakeholders with land in the direct path of the proposed laneway.
Casurella added the project has, “recently received the final sign-off on Alberta Infrastructure and the federal research station,” for route approval as laid out at the time of the meeting. Casurella said the last stage of the public consultation has also wrapped up for the entire region.
Council was presented the survey results from a geographically targeted social media campaign, which heard from 243 respondents from Lethbridge County, Lethbridge, and Coaldale. Although Casurella said, “we found concerns raised,” the results showed 93 per cent of survey participants were supportive, and under three per cent were concerned, (amounting to seven people total), two of which were residents of Lethbridge County.
“There is a lot of fundraising to do,” said Casurella, adding 30 per cent of the project is funded so far, and the organization hopes to hit the ground in spring of 2023 on construction “aggressively” which involves “big complicated pieces” such as the underpass under HWY 512 and will involve working alongside Alberta Transportation to get this portion installed.
The committee will be undertaking four substantial grant proposals in addition to community fundraising, but noted the updated MOU is a central piece to allowing the next stages to move forward smoothly and would show grant committees, the Link Pathway Association Committee is ready to make the project happen, once the fundraising goal has been reached.
The association is working towards applying to the Trans-Canada Trail Foundation which provides funding for along HWY 3 specifically, with a long-term vision of advanced connectivity for bike pathways in the future. Other possible revenue streams include the Active Transportation Fund, and the Rural Transportation Solution Funds, both of which are federal funding streams.
Casurella said the title sponsor is eager to see action on the project happen as quickly as possible. “They have made it clear they want us to move as aggressively as possible to get the approvals in place in order to make this happen,” and are eager to get the affairs of late Cor Van Raay finalized.
The total project cost is in the vicinity of $4.5 million, but it was noted many factors have been overestimated and that the project continues to benefit from “generous contractors” throughout the region who have provided services at cost, at a discount or free.
According to Casurella, “The Town of Coaldale has always been very excited,” and said the Town has applied for funds to do additional bike trail work in the town to have better connectivity to the Link Pathway project.
Coun. Klaas VanderVeen said, of the projects accommodations so far, “It looks like you guys went over and above to get this done and I am really in favour of this. It should have been done a long time ago.”
With Vista Meadows residents present in the gallery, council opted to open the floor to hear any additional comments, and several residents came forward expressing concerns over the chosen route.
Klaas moved to pass the entirety of the MOU, but the motion was defeated 4-3.
Henry Doeve, chair of the LINK Pathway Committee said council’s decision will see the committee back at the drawing board to “address the concerns that they get they had and move forward. We have the route all lined up; it’s all secured and it’s just matters indicating to them, to give them (council) the confidence.”
“We continue to apply for the grants that are available to us,” said Doeve.
Following the decision, Casurella said, the 4-3 vote was a “surprising decision, that we did not expect,” following the delegation but that he, “anticipate(s) that we will be back in front of council very soon to address any specific concerns that the councillors have.”