Experience Fraser project progressing

Group wants river to do for local tourism what the Seine and
Rhine have done in Europe

The framework is in place for one trail connecting Vancouver to Hope. However

The framework is in place for one trail connecting Vancouver to Hope. However

B.C.’s new premier liked the idea of stitching together 300 kilometres of trail along the Fraser River from Hope to Vancouver.

Christy Clark got an update Friday about the Experience the Fraser project, which dreams of a multi-use trail on both sides of the river, joining culture, recreation, tourism and exercise.

“We’re hoping to make this an international tourist sight,” comparable in impact to the Seine River in Paris, or the Rhine River in Germany, but mostly benefiting the local population, said MLA Marc Dalton.

The group, included Langley Coun. Gayle Martin, Mission Mayor James Atebe and Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley Regional District representatives reviewed progress so far, including two demo projects, one in Mission, the other in Langley.

Dalton is on the Experience the Fraser team and said the premier was “excited about the whole project and sees it as a real legacy for future generations.

“She was very much taken with the whole project.”

Experience the Fraser was launched two years ago with $2.5 million in seed money. Two million of that was for developing a concept plan, most of which has been done, including two brainstorming sessions to ensure input from all sides.

The remainder went to the Langley demonstration project, a trail that opens in July connecting Fort Langley to Derby Reach Regional Park and Golden Ears Bridge; and for building a Spirit Square on the Mission river front.

Dalton said the basic framework is now in place with buy-in from about 20 agencies. Most of Phase 1 of the plan, consulting with the agencies, has been done, allowing for the more practical task of implementing the project over several years.

“The plan is there. We are still finalizing different things. Part of that is community outreach.”

A map has been created to identify the various tourist attractions for the first 160 kilometres.

“We have done the preliminary work and now we’re moving forward.”

Much of the system is already in place, such as the trails along the Fraser and Pitt river dikes, Dalton pointed out. The existing Trans-Canada Trail also composes a large of the network.

“But we’re trying to link everything and provide a long-term vision for both sides of the Fraser River.”

In Maple Ridge, Experience the Fraser will likely hook up with Kanaka Creek Regional Park and could see connecting trails that head north and east to Mission. The east and west end points of the project will connect with the B.C. Interior, places such as the Kettle Valley railway trail and the Sea to Sky corridor.

It’s going to take awhile to connect everything, but it’s not an endless project, Dalton said.

It’s a long-term vision, one that has to be considered as development proceeds.

Dalton noted the Fraser group made the same pitch to the Liberal government caucus two weeks ago, so all the MLAs know what’s going on.

“Things are moving forward. There probably will be some gaps, but we’ll work through those as time progresses.”

Experience the Fraser in Maple Ridge remains a work in progress. Much of the route in western Maple Ridge could be composed of existing bike paths or sidewalks, said Bruce McLeod, manager of parks and open space.

But the challenge would be continuing east of Port Haney train station. The district eventually wants to buy river front between Port Haney and Kanaka Creek Regional Park, where a log sort yard sits now.

Doing so would allow a waterfront path as far as Albion Industrial Area, but moving eastward beyond that would be more difficult. A pathway through the Albion Industrial Area would have to circumvent industry that needs access to the river.

Building a riverfront route east of 240th Street to Mission would be even more difficult because right of ways would have to be acquired.

McLeod wanted to wait until council gets an update of the project before giving more details.