The plan to build a hiking and cycling trail on both sides of the Fraser River from Vancouver to Hope has always been a long-term dream.
While segments of the Experience the Fraser trails are being built to the east and south, though, little progress has been made to plot the route through Maple Ridge.
This year, $335,000 will pay for new trail construction in Mission and Chilliwack, thanks to funding from the job creation partnership at the Ministry of Social Development and Infrastructure.
Last year, another $320,000, from the same source, was allotted for building trails, footbridges and boardwalks in Mission, plus two viewing platforms in Chilliwack.
Pieces of the Experience the Fraser have been built in Surrey Bend Regional Park and in Langley, as well.
When it was launched in 2009, the project received $2.5 million in seed money, then another $1 million in 2012.
Maple Ridge, though, hasn’t received any of the money.
The provincial government has spent money on Maple Ridge parks projects not associated with Experience the Fraser, said Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton, formerly the lead provincial politician on the project.
It’s going to take time to realize the dream of trails along both sides of the Fraser all the way to Hope, he added.
“Experience the Fraser, it always seemed to be a long-term process.”
Maple Ridge recreation general manager Kelly Swift said that piecing trail parts together, and building pieces of the trail which could obtain funding is all a matter of timing, which is mostly out of the city’s hands.
“A lot of what spurs what areas get developed, in terms of extending the trail, is when developments are happening,” Swift said.
“But those aren’t deadlines that the city can control. They’re often controlled by property owners making changes or new developments on their property.”
Once plans for a piece of riverfront property are announced, the city can require a right of way for the trail be included, at no cost to the taxpayer. Recently, development was proposed for a piece of property along the Fraser River, where that could have happened. But it did not.
Realizing Experience the Fraser is a lengthy process can be painful, Swift adds.
“There really isn’t another way to do it. This is the smartest way to do it because it’s the most cost effective.”
Two small projects on the to-do list could see crucial parts of the trail established in Maple Ridge.
Building a two-kilometre trail beneath the Golden Ears Bridge to connect Airport Way to Port Hammond would link Maple Ridge with the vast Pitt River greenway dike trail in Pitt Meadows. That greenway also comprises the Pitt Meadows part of the Experience the Fraser project.
However, there’s no timeline on building that trail beneath the bridge because it’s turning out to be more complex than anticipated.
Swift said that each piece of the puzzle, creating a trail right of way, will fall into place on its own schedule.
The long-term plan remains to create a riverfront trail along the Fraser River in Maple Ridge, even though a concept plan offers a second option following Abernethy Way.
“But the vision is for the corridor to be trail in the long run.”
Part of Experience the Fraser is creating spur lines to allow people to divert north or south. One of those would see a trail or pathway connecting the north end of Kanaka Creek Regional Park to Rolley Lake in Mission.
Two years ago, a new trail connecting Derby Reach Regional Park in Fort Langley to Golden Ears Bridge created a major crossing, joining the Langley part of Experience the Fraser, to the Pitt Meadows part.
Directional signs were put up last year, indicating that the 34-kilometre stretch has been finished.
“So it’s now considered complete,” said Wendy Dadalt, with regional parks in Metro Vancouver.
That will allow a cyclist in Fort Langley to pedal all the way across Golden Ears Bridge, through Pitt Meadows along the Pitt River Greenway and into Coquitlam.
Cities and Metro Vancouver work together in trying to identify pieces of property that can be added to the Experience the Fraser corridor.
“Relationship building is key to a project like this,” Dadalt says.
That can be more difficult as staff arrive and depart.
“It’s a 100-year plan. It’s a long-term vision,” said Dadalt.
She agrees that finding a riverfront route through Maple Ridge, in Albion Industrial area or east of 240th Street in particular, will be tough.
“It will be a difficult place to make an east-west connection. That’s the real challenge, even for a trail that’s not on the river.”
Discussions haven’t started on that area.
“It’s not possible to do that at this time.”
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Doug Bing has taken over from Dalton as chair of the Experience the Fraser committee this year.
“It’s a multi-year project and they’re doing both sides of the river and there are lots of opportunities, I’m sure, for us to get a project,” Bing said.