A paved pathway connecting the City of Fernie to Fernie Alpine Resort could soon become a reality.
The pathway, which is still in its funding stages, is proposed to be a seven kilometre-long, three-metre wide paved trail running parallel to Highway 3, from the City of Fernie to Fernie Alpine Resort.
It would accommodate a variety of users, from athletes to families with chariots, roller-ski and rollerblade enthusiasts, and wheelchair users.
This project has taken many forms and been led by several groups of volunteers since early 2000. It was originally a City-initiated project called the Centennial Trail project, intended to connect the city to the ski hill. It was started but only constructed to the Fernie city limits.
Now, the project is being spearheaded by the Fernie Trails Alliance and is projected to be completed by 2020.
The current gravel path alongside the highway has provided a safer route for residents and visitors to travel, however, it stops short of a narrow section of highway with a narrow shoulder for pedestrians to travel safely.
This has put individuals at risk if they wish to travel to the ski hill without the use of a vehicle.
The proposed paved path would travel over a newly-constructed, multi-purpose Lizard Creek Bridge, which will include a three-metre walkway extension for pedestrians and cyclists.
This multimillion-dollar bridge upgrade is being taken on by the Ministry of Transportation.
The pathway committee is also considering several options for the pathway to safely cross the highway.
Fernie Valley Pathway board member and volunteer, Robert Champagne, said that a connecting pathway is something Fernie has always needed but never had.
“It just makes sense to have a safe – I think we really have focus on the safety of this – to have a safe way for people to get across Lizard Creek Bridge, where it’s not a major hazard. And, to get people to and from the hill without having to deal with traffic. That’s basically the bottom line,” he said.
Champagne stressed that a gravel trail would only cater to a select few, whereas a paved trail could accommodate everyone; from young families with chariots to those with wheelchairs.
He added that those who visit from out of town, especially Calgary, notice the lack of available pathways around Fernie.
Champagne explained that the introduction of the Rocky Mountain Legacy Trail running between Banff and Canmore has served those communities extremely well, and that aside from benefiting locals, the Fernie Valley Pathway could also be a great local attraction.
“The Canmore to Banff pathway is being used tremendously, people are going there specifically to ride that. The Kimberley Rails to Trails is huge, they’re renting a ton of bikes out of Kimberley right now for that,” said Champagne.
“You get all these people who are wanting that kind of surface and we just don’t have that in Fernie, so it makes sense that we need to get that here.”
Local and provincial governments, as well as Fernie Alpine Resort community members, have expressed extreme interest in the project.
Fernie Mayor Ange Qualizza praised the project as something the community needs.
“I love the idea,” she said.
“These paved trails that connect areas in the community just have so much value to a community, not just for a community’s health, but in terms of recreation, tourism, all of it.
“I can’t imagine anything that would be more beneficial than having a paved trail from the ski hill community into town. It would be pretty amazing.”
Qualizza says she hopes this new committee will continue driving forward, and manage some of the “roadblocks” that the previous committees could not.
The project is currently in the funding stages and further information will be provided as it develops.