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 City Trails and Natural Parks 

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Background

The City of Prince George Official Community Plan (2001), City Wide Trail System Master Plan (1998) and Parks Plan (1986) all provide direction on the planning and development of parks and trails for the City. Currently there exists approximately 75km of formalized trails in the City with an additional 131km proposed in the City Wide Trail System Master Plan. These trails are found in parks, along waterways, in developed areas, and adjacent to roadways. Trails can be used for recreational purposes such as dog walking, skiing or horseback riding but are also important as a transportation linkage for cyclists and pedestrians.

The City's Parks Plan and Official Community Plan both promote the protection of specific areas of our community as Natural Parks which will provide wildlife habitat or preserve a significant natural feature. Natural Parks provide over 16% of all open space in the City and provide for active (e.g. trail use) and passive (e.g. bird watching) recreation opportunities. Development in these parks is limited to basic vehicle access and recreational facilities in order to maintain the natural beauty of the park and its environmentally sensitive features. Typical developments in these parks may include some vehicle parking, trail development, toilets and signage.

The following is an excerpt from a Leisure Services Department report to Council on June 26, 2000.

Report

Council's Vision identifies eight areas of focus including improving efficiency and effectiveness in terms of Infrastructure. The Implementation of the City Wide Trail Master Plan, with its goal to provide a pleasant, fully connected Trail System is one component of the Action Plan that will assist in achieving this Infrastructure focus.

Community interests in Trails dates back to the mid-1980's when the first Riverfront Trails and Parks Master Plan was adopted. In 1998, City Council broadened the scope of the plan by adopting the City Wide Trail System Master Plan. In 1999, City Council approved a Provincial Infrastructure Grant application for Trail Development in partnership with the College Heights Community Association. During the public consultation phase of the College Heights project some members of the community-raised concerns with the development plans. The Department felt it was appropriate to revisit the Master Plan to ensure that it did in fact represent the 'trail needs' of the community. The approved 2000 CEP contains $419,000 for City Wide Trail Development ($250,000 for College Heights and $169,000 for Heritage River Trail upgrades).

To this end, the UNBC Institute for Social Research and Evaluation (ISRE) was approached to assist us with a City Wide survey to determine the community's views on the existing trails as well as top gain an understanding of the level of support for the proposed City Wide Trail System. Over 3000 surveys were sent out at random to households throughout the City. An additional over sample of College Heights was also distributed. In all, 554 useable surveys were returned, with 127 coming from the College Heights over sample. The ISRE indicate that these numbers are representative of the community as well as accurate within plus or minus 4% 19 times out of 20. There was virtually no significant difference between the City Wide and College Heights survey responses.

The ISRE has completed a preliminary review of the survey results and it is clear that the community actively uses trails and support additional trail development. The results are very consistent with the 1997 PERC Report. In the Spring, Summer and Fall over 50% of the community use trails at least once per month, with close to 40% use at least once per week. When asked about the type of activities the respondents participate in, walking and hiking top the list of activities followed by cycling, jogging and skating (in-line and skateboarding). The respondents stated their main reason for using trails was for recreation and pleasure. When asked if they support or oppose the Master Plan 86% either support or strongly support it. The survey also confirmed the need for more public education on the Master Plan and trails in general.

When asked specifically about how they would feel about having the various types of trails in their neighborhoods we also received tremendous support. Over 71% would like a 'City Trail' (3M paved, multipurpose/multi-season), 73% would like 'Local Trails' (2M granular, variable use/multi-season) and 68% would like 'Rustic Trails' (1M packed earth, restricted use/multi-season). This support is corroborated when respondents were asked about the type of trail improvements that they would like to see. In the Spring, Summer and Fall most comments focused on improved surfacing, usability for small children, width and access for cycling and rollerblading. In the Winter, the biggest suggestion was plowing and sanding of trails for walking. Many comments about dogs and dog droppings were also recorded.

Based on this preliminary review of the survey results, we feel the City Wide Trail System Master Plan does meet community 'trail needs'. The proposed hierarchy of trails responds to type of trail uses people would like to engage in. The development of 2.5-3M wide paved multi-use/multi-season trails meets the greatest needs for the community. The survey results also reinforce the need for variety in the Trail System through the provision 'Local Trails' and 'Rustic Trails'.

In consultation with the College Heights Community Association, and based on the survey results and the input received last year, the Leisure Services Department plan to proceed with the implementation of the City Wide Trail Plan in College Heights as approved in this year's budget. However, we believe the primary area of initial development should focus on upgrading existing trails and loops rather than new development.

Some of the feedback received last year during public consultation indicated people were concerned with disturbance to natural areas, change in type of use and trail conflicts. The results of the Survey indicate people desire natural areas for recreation and pleasure but they want a variety of recreational experiences too. Therefore, the primary focus will be on Gladstone Park to upgrade existing trails and close loops within Gladstone Park and the College Heights Senior Secondary School. This should serve more people and is less disruptive to the existing park area. The 2.5M minimum width for the 'City Trail' (paved multi-use/multi-season) will be used to reduce impact to the environment.

Once these priorities are completed, and if funds remain, additional 'Local Trails' and 'City Trails' will be developed in the North College Park area. The $250,000 funding for this project comes from the SouthWest Sector Reserve, $200,000 (specific to Parks and Recreation development) and $50,000 from Provincial Infrastructure Grant the City received last year for this project.

The approved 2000 Budget also included funds to upgrade the Heritage River Trail. Specifically, the 'City Trail' will be extended around the River Road side of Cottonwood Island Park to connect up to Fort George Park. This will close the paved loop and allow for a contiguous paved connection. In this case, as it will be a highly traveled section of the trail the 3M paved preferred width will be used. The Open Space Reserve ($9,000), Capital Expenditure Reserve ($151,000) and a Misc. Trust ($9,000) will fund the $169,000 expenditure.

Prior to construction on both projects, additional public education on the Master Plan will be done and input will be sought to ensure any local concerns are understood and considered in the detailed designs. Additional survey information will be made available when the final ISRE report is completed later this summer.

The Survey results confirm the Community's interest in and support for the City Wide Trail System Master Plan. The results reaffirm that the Trail System's Hierarchy, based on trail user needs and the creation of loops in neighborhoods and connections to other citywide parks or facilities. Based on these results the construction program in College Heights has been revised with construction planned to start for there and on the Heritage River Trail in late summer or early fall.

Contacts
Full Name: Laurie-Ann Kosec
Job Title: Parks and Open Space Planner
Company: City of Prince George
Business Phone: (250) 614-7873
E-mail Address: lkosec@city.pg.bc.ca
Fax Number: (250) 561-7721


 







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