Another million dollars has been sunk into the Experience the Fraser project, but it doesn’t look like any of it will be spent in the district where the funding was announced Monday.
Greg Moore, chair of Metro Vancouver, and Sharon Gaetz, chair of Fraser Valley Regional District, were both at the Easter Monday announcement delivered by Liberal MLAs Randy Hawes and Marc Dalton in Kanaka Creek Regional Park in Maple Ridge.
No decisions have been made but, the steering committee could allocate the money somewhere in the Fraser Valley Regional District, possibly the Abbotsford area, said Gayle Martin, a Langley city councillor on Metro Vancouver’s board. One million dollars doesn’t go far, she added.
Experience the Fraser, a plan to build biking and hiking trails along both sides of the Fraser River from Vancouver to Hope, got $2.5 million in seed money three years ago to develop a concept plan, plus more money last year for a trail from Fort Langley to the Golden Ears Bridge.
The project would also use trails that already exist, such as those in Pitt Meadows, where paths run from Golden Ears Bridge along the Fraser River and across to Port Coquitlam using the Pitt River Bridge. Existing trails would make up 43 per cent of the project.
Hawes said Martin started pushing the idea 20 years ago.
With the Lower Mainland’s population continuing to grow, it’s important to keep at the project or the opportunity will be lost.
“Fundamentally, this is a legacy that we need to put together for our children,” said Hawes, adding that people have to keep pushing the provincial government to support it.
“This project cannot be allowed to fall away.”
Hawes suggested a small charge of a few dollars be added on to municipal property taxes as a “park fee” that would be allocated exclusively to Experience the Fraser.
People accept such taxes more easily if they know the monies raised go only for parks, he said.
“The Fraser River is a constant reminder that B.C. is great place to live and work,” added Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
“Trails connect us as a community so it’s been amazing to see Experience the Fraser come alive over the past three years,” he added in a news release, saying it’s a legacy project that will benefit residents and visitors for “years to come.”
He presented a memorandum of understanding between Premier Christy Clark and both regional districts supporting the project.
Gaetz, mayor of Chilliwack, credited former premier Gordon Campbell for ensuring Experience the Fraser was a priority, while Hawes got it started at the local level.
“It was hard work, I tell you, building those relationships, making sure everyone was aware … that this was long term … that would span a generation at least,” Gaetz said.
The million-dollar announcement was made on the third anniversary of the project.
Maple Ridge Mayor Ernie Daykin said a starting point could be connecting Kanaka Creek Regional Park to 240th Street, on the river front. Some dike trails already exist part of the way.
“I don’t think it would be big at all.”
From there, it’s a short walk up 240th Street to the fish fence on Kanaka Creek, he pointed out.
He’d also like to connect Kanaka Creek Regional Park to Port Haney at the bottom of 224th Street. The district’s long-term plan is to buy riverfront property to connect the two.
Perhaps even a summertime boat service from Fort Langley to Port Haney could be possible, he added.
Coun. Corisa Bell said the project was fantastic for tourism because it would bring in visitors.
“How cool is that going to be, biking from Hope to the Salish Sea [Vancouver or Georgia Strait]. Where else could you do that?”