Things are looking up for outdoor winter activity enthusiasts in the Fort St. John area.
Under the Harper Government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund (CIIF), on behalf of Lynne Yelich Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, Member of Parliament Bob Zimmer announced the government is providing $29,841 of funding for improvements to Beatton Provincial Park cross-country trails.
“Our Government is continuing to support communities across Canada by investing in projects that improve community infrastructure,” said Zimmer.
‘The amount the federal government is contributing, $29,000 it’s not a huge amount but it’s definitely a good contributor.”
The trails are in need of an update as they were first established about 30 years ago and have had little done to them since then.
“They were kind of slightly upgraded ATV trails and they weren’t really designed with skiers in mind. We had a trail designed come up and give us a great blueprint for optimal ski trails which is what we’re going to build,” said president of the Whiskey Jack Nordic Ski Club Eliza Stanford.
“It’s something that hasn’t been done for a long time. The trails are used by many many families and will create a lot of jobs, especially in the area, explained Zimmer.
The Whiskey Jack Nordic Ski Club Society, who maintain and groom the trails in the winter months, will be improving the trails in a number of different ways.
“We’re going to widen the trails that are there so they’ll be an eight meter width and that’s standard, so that you have two classic tracks and then you have a skating lane. It’s nice when you have two classic tracks, then people can ski together side by side and then you have skate skiers who have lots of room to do their skate skiing … it’s just much better to have wider trails,” said Stanford.
She explained that the updating of these trails is something that will be positive for the community as a whole.
“I think that it’s important for all communities in the Peace to have good cross country ski trails because it’s one of the most accessible winter sports that people can do and they also double as hiking trails in the summer, so it really reaches people of all abilities in all seasons.”
According to Stanford, there have been a number of different organizations that have aided in this project.
“It’s not just the provincial government, it’s the federal government, it’s the Regional District, it’s Northern Development Initiative Trust, plus several oil and gas companies that have all participated in this project from the beginning. From the trail planning right through to getting the work done so we’ve had and also North Peace Savings and Credit Union, so we have many partners and I think that’s important. Everybody’s coming together on this,” she said.
According to a recently released statement by MP Bob Zimmer’s office, CIIF supports – on a cost-shared basis – repairs and improvements to existing community infrastructure accessible to the public. Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is delivering the Fund in Western Canada with an allocation of $46.2 million over two years.
“Basically, that’s the pot of money that, that particular amount comes from. The way it’s allocated is the money is asked for, it’s applied for and based on the criteria Western Economic Diversification goes through it, I also have input on to who gets the amounts that ask for it because there’s often a lot more people asking then there is to give out. We make those decisions based on merit. Anything with infrastructure is important to me especially if it’s related to roads, pipes and basic infrastructure that we need to upgrade. That’s what gets first priority in my book,” said Zimmer.
For the people of Peace Region, the cross-country trails offer a chance to participate in a sport during the long winter months, according to Stanford.
“It’s probably the best thing about living out here, being able to get out and ski so close to home. If you live in a big city, you have to drive a long way to get to a cross-country ski facility. Both Dawson Creek and Fort St. John have them very close to their town centers.”
Stanford added, “These trails are available to everyone, they’re in a provincial park. You either become a member or you voluntarily put money in the donation box, otherwise they’re free for people to use and we’re just a volunteer organization, so we’re really giving a community an assist to everybody who wants to use it.”
According to Zimmer, the chose to give out funding for the update of the trails is something that’s positive for the community.
“The merit was based on the fact that nothing had been done in thirty years and the price was a fairly good bang for the buck. That $30,000 of federal money for the amount that is was going to put back into the community, it was a good investment in my book.”