Maple Ridge: Do your part to connect river trail

Experience the Fraser wants to create paths along both shores, as far as Hope, district can do its part

It’s easy to flit from one project to another and gobble up a ton of tax dollars in the process.

But the dream of a walking-cycling-hiking trail on both sides of the Fraser River from Vancouver to Hope has caught everyone’s imagination, the provincial government, both the present and past premiers, MLAs, First Nations, and community groups.

It’s no pipe dream of a small fringe.

Everyone can see the value of such a project – offering unique vistas of one of the world’s great rivers. A multi-use trail could be a huge attraction to visiting cyclists or hikers or tourists who want a close-up look at B.C.’s lifeline.

The tourist dollars would flow, as a result, while the trail could serve as back up non-commuter route – an emergency pathway snaking along the river.

Which is why Maple Ridge should jump on board and do its part for the project, while it can, before it gets too expensive and before that prime waterfront land gets gobbled up.

When MLAs and councillors showed up at Kanaka Creek Regional Park, just below Tamarack Lane, across from the problematic Albion flats a few weeks ago, announcing $1 million for the project, they did so at one of the many gaps that need filling before Experience the Fraser becomes a reality.

From Kanaka Creek park east to 240th Street, a stretch of a couple kilometres, there’s a hodge-podge of properties that keep people from accessing the river.

It’s an important stretch, though, because it provides a non-motorized link between central Maple Ridge and its eastern suburbs.

What if those gaps were filled and people could ride or run along the river from Port Haney all the way to Albion?

People would adopt the route and it would be a major step towards integrating both communities.

It’s not a new idea, however, to the District of Maple Ridge’s parks and leisure services department. It’s already in its long-term plans.

Recreation director Kelly Swift points out the district has to stay vigilant in order to acquire right-of-ways as property is sold or developed. But that’s a long-term process.

But it can only proceed if the money and the political will is there to follow up.

The time, though, is sooner rather than later, because at some point, investors will realize that waterfront, zoned Albion industrial area property near the Lougheed Highway, in the Lower Mainland, isn’t a bad place to put your light manufacturing or processing plants.

If Albion flats on the north side of Lougheed is developed, demand will only grow for land on the south side of the highway.

Which is why the trail/pathway has to be built now, while accessing the right-of-way is still possible and affordable.

All it takes is for people here to make it happen.

MLA Marc Dalton is doing what he can and helped win provincial support.

Now Maple Ridge council has to step in, get a right-of-way acquisition plan in place and a timeline and build the trail.

The project needs a champion or two on council to stay with it and drive it forward until it’s done. Maple Ridge hikers, cyclists and community groups also have to step up, as a letter to the editor recently suggested, and instead of bleating from the sidelines, help get it done.

Then Maple Ridge would have done its part for Experience the Fraser, a legacy for all involved.

Phil Melnychuk is a reporter with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.