Mike Carter, Chetwynd Echo
CHETWYND – A proposal to improve Chetwynd’s walking trails has been finalized by the towns Community Improvements Committee.
More of a discussion piece than an entrenched plan of action, the report addresses options for pathway lighting, re-development of what is known as “Expo Mountain” (the welcome sign located on the east side of town), the design and construction of gathering places along a revamped walking trail, and opportunities for extending the trail west from the visitor information centre.
No conclusions are made in the report. Instead, a number of options are presented for consideration. No costs have been developed at this planning stage either, however some aspects – notably the lighting options – are cited as being costly in relation to other methods.
Some work is already underway.
The hardware on the trees and the lights they held have come down, some sections of the trail have had patchwork maintenance, and some trees were felled.
Coun. Larry Vezina, Chair of the Community Improvements Committee said he appreciated the options the report gave for upgrades to the trail system.
“This doesn’t tie us into anything in particular. It gives us options to work with so adopting it is not going to bind our hands.”
Vezina also mentioned that citizens had approached him about a path that would go down 53rd Avenue past the Days Inn, tying into the Legion sub.
“There are a lot of folks that stay in the RV Park there and go for walks at night.”
According to Chief Administrative Officer Doug Fleming, the entire Boulevard Walkway Beautification Plan began with a suggestion from council to remove the windmills along the pathway.
When installed, the windmills earned the District a 2006 Award from the Fort St. John-based Science, Innovation and Technology Council (Sci-Tech) for its achievement in finding an alternative energy source.
“The district is very proud of that,” Fleming said. “They did something very innovative at the time. The technology was new and a good thing to do. But, sometimes you have to move forward with the sense of the times.”
After realizing the high maintenance costs and the unreliability associated with the current wind and solar energy sources, the District has turned off the idea of alternatives.
“They are not an ideal installation in our climate,” Public Works Manager Paul Gordon stated.
“In our frigid temperatures the batteries tend to freeze and if we have to keep switching batteries out every time they freeze, it becomes very expensive. It’s expensive and inefficient,” he said.
Fleming added the replacement cost of batteries is much higher than a reoccurring hydro bill.
“A lot of municipalities are going to a new type of solar lighting but they are not as green as everybody professes them to be necessarily,” he remarked.
The plan suggests that the town consider hooking into the power grid in order to permanently light sections of the pathway.
“The District may consider that hooking up to the grid is the most acceptable solution. Unless there is a main power outage, there will always be a source of consistent, reliable power,” it states.
“There are very good arguments about using alternative forms of energy to provide power for lighting. In this highway corridor location however, the close proximity to electrical service makes the most economic sense when spending tax dollars.”
“We’re basing it on our experience with streetlights,” Fleming said. “We pay a fee to hydro for streetlights and it’s very reasonable. We know what it costs us for hydro to run a streetlight and we know when we look at the expense to run those lights, we would be ahead of the game.”
In comparison, the electricity required to power one streetlight, could power about six to ten of the pedestrian trail lights required by Ministry of Transportation guidelines.
Most likely, the lighting installations will be the last item completed on a long list of possible improvements, Fleming said.
“I suspect you’ll see the community improvements committee this fall talk about taking a few pieces of this plan and trying to implement them next year.”
This could mean that before key parts of the plan are implemented, Council might hear some feedback from the public about what they would like to see done with the trail system, an option not previously available.