There are no fat-bike dedicated trails around Fernie. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

City ponders grooming

A pilot program would see an increase in the length of trails groomed around Fernie

The City of Fernie has approved $37,000 in funding through the Resort Development Strategy for the Winter Trails Collaborative, which is a program designed to enhance winter trail maintenance around Fernie.

The funding would be dispersed through the Fernie Trail Alliance “at such a point as an acceptable formal governance and management structure for the funding is in place” according to the municipal documentation.

The funding would be shared between the various user groups and stakeholders involved in grooming trails.

Discussion about winter trails at the most recent council meeting on Dec. 14 hinged on how multi-use trails are used, and the difference of impact between cross-country skiers, snowshoers, fat-bikers and walkers, with Mayor Qualizza noting that there was “a bit of friction” when it came to multi-use trails and grooming – especially given walkers and runners used the same trails.

“It’s my understanding that right now there are not fat-bike dedicated trails, so we’re going to be using public money for a grooming strategy on some trails that could be destroyed hours after a grooming session,” said Qualizza, asking how the city could ensure the funds were used responsibly. Fat-biking trails require grooming.

Chief Administrative Officer Michael Boronowski said that given the City of Fernie had not opted to designate any trails as being for specific activities, communication and education was the best approach.

“Communication strategies and signage need to be part of that conversation as we get ready to start funding the actual grooming on the trails,” he said.

Councillor Troy Nixon, who was up until recently the president of the Fernie Mountain Biking Club took the opportunity to cut loose on any bickering among user groups about the use of trails.

“I’ve seen a lot of friction online in regards to post-holing and all the rest of it…during a global pandemic I just look at all of this stuff (and) I can’t believe people are actually complaining about this.

“Snow will solve the post-holes for sure, and people have to put it in perspective, these are all multi-use trails, and …get over it,” he said.

“I think we don’t listen to the complainers and we just groom what we can.”

The funding would see increased grooming around the city from 14.6km of trail to 46.7km under a 2020-2021 pilot program.

As part of the Winter Trails Collaborative, the current unauthorized crossing of the train tracks north of the golf course in Fernie would be removed, and all trail groups would be directed to not extend grooming services to the crossing.

City contributions would see increased access to publicly accessible washrooms, a snow clearing pilot to enhance service at main staging areas (James White Park, Annex Park and the Aquatic Centre), extended grooming on the Fernie dike, “specific attention to managing compaction of snow under north and west Fernie bridges to allow for better access on cross country skis,” and more.

Councillors voted unanimously to support the funding for the collaborative.

READ MORE: Fernie ski shuttle gets going
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