By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
County council has approved the Phase 2 and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Cor Van Raay LINK Pathway Project.
Over a decade in the making, the project will move forward with the proposed 11 km Phase 2 route which will connect the 3.5 km Phase 1 segment at Highway 512 to the City of Lethbridge.
Following council’s decision, Lethbridge County Reeve Tory Campbell said “Approving Phase 2 of the Cor Van Raay LINK Pathway today aligns with the goals in the County’s Strategic Plan,” and added the County’s, “focus on regional collaboration and governance that represents the best interest of our community were factors in the decision to move forward with this project.”
Of the nearly six hour council meeting on March 2, an hour and 45 minutes was spent discussing the Link Pathway Project Committee’s request for Council to approve Phase 2 of the MOU between the Cor Van Raay Link Pathway Committee, Lethbridge County and the St. Mary River Irrigation District.
Administration’s recommendation to council was to approve the MOU for Phase 2 of the project after council defeated the resolution during the Nov. 3 regular meeting of council.
In 2018, the County contributed $150,000 to the Link Pathway project. In September 2022, council voted to approve the Phase 1 MOU between the SMRID and Link Pathway Committee. Phase 1 refers to the 3.5 km segment of pathway which will link Coaldale to Highway 512 in Lethbridge County. The committee returned before council later that fall in November with a request for council to approve the Phase 2 MOU, but the motion to approve this stage was defeated.
As a strategy to minimize risk to the municipality, County council also adopted nine resolutions which the Link Pathway Committee was required to fulfill prior to the County signing off on the Phase 2 MOU, all of which were fulfilled as of the March 2 meeting. Contained in the resolutions was the requirement that the committee obtain written agreements from all landowners including SMRID granting permission for a pathway to run through their properties. Interim CAO Larry Randle noted, “signed easements are in place for Greenlife Farms and Elk Creek Dairy farms. There is a letter from Lethbridge College confirming they are committed to accommodating the passage of the pathway across lands leased by the province to them.”
Peter Casurella appeared before County council on March 2 to discuss recent steps taken by the committee on the project including obtaining permission to shorten the route to allow the pathway to go along the fence line of the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, as well as joining the Trans-Canada trail system, and were engaged in the grant application process to acquire additional funds for the construction of the project.
The cost for maintenance of the pathway has been estimated at between $10,000-$20,000 annually and will be the responsibility of Lethbridge County. However, this figure does not include capital replacements in the future.
During the Nov. 3 meeting, several council members expressed concerns over whether the committee had exhausted alternative options to bypass the Vista Meadows subdivision. Several property owners in Vista Meadows have come forward over the years opposing the alignment of the proposed route, noting they felt that a pathway going past their yards would infringe upon their privacy and security and detrimentally impact property values.
Casurella said, “other routes using farmland going around Vista Meadows would involve impacting pivots, which is a non-starter for us given the other considerations on the table.”
Deputy Reeve John Kuerbis commented on the stark opposition to the project in its proposed location, and the expressed opposition to the pathway (or its propsoed location) which will run adjacent to their backyards. “I appreciate and understand it is three individuals,” voicing opposition but said, “I still have concerns in regards to mitigation for Vista Meadows.”
In addition to concerns for privacy and security, some people expressed concerns over litter, route maintenance, and the potential for increased crime near their properties.
Speaking in favour of approving the alternative route which would utilize public roads and pass by the fronts of properties rather than the backyards of some properties, Kuerbis reasoned, “nobody has any expectation or indication of privacy on public roads.”
“I never thought that pathways and campgrounds would be some of the most contentious issues I faced during my time on council,” Reeve Campbell said, speaking in favour of approving the MOU with the proposed route.
“I take significant issue with some of the language used (that the pathway will run) through Vista Meadows. As far I as see this issue, there has never been, until today, a path which would through Vista Meadows, the path has always been proposed to be adjacent to Vista Meadows.”
As discussion appeared to be nearing a close, tensions were high, and a motion was carried to adopt the alternative route in a 4-3 vote, but was reconsidered and defeated shortly after. Moments later, a motion passed to approve Phase 2 and the MOU with the original route running adjacent to the backyards of several properties.
Reeve Campbell said, “The Link Pathway has generated considerable interest and the consideration of the MoU for Phase 2 was preceded by substantial public feedback. Navigating the meeting was challenging at times, but ultimately, Council arrived at the decision to approve the MOU for Phase 2 of the Pathway. I’m thankful for Council’s patience with the Chair while trying to wade through such diverse opinions. While it may not be fun in the moment, I think its important the public sees Council wrestling with these tough issues, asking hard questions, and ultimately, coming to a decision.”
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