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Success Story > La Crete Walking Trail: Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way

La Crete - walking trail before renovationThe idea for La Crete’s walking trails started as a way to help people walk more safely in town.

Like many small Alberta communities, La Crete didn’t have sidewalks. As Beng Friesen (a founder of the La Crete trails project) says, “We wanted to get people off the roads.”

Friesen says the trails idea really started in 2001 with a general meeting about the town sidewalks at a local arena. He says that “some people stuck around after the meeting” and joined the project’s first board.

After the first phase of trail was well underway, the board found they couldn’t get funding for in-town “sidewalks.” They then decided to build walking trails outside town instead.

La Crete, Alberta
The project: This community has built five kilometres of paved trail.
Population: About 2,500 to 3,000 (another 5,000 to 6,000 people in the surrounding area)
Main industry: Logging and farming
Nearest large towns: About 116 kilometres southeast of High Level and 800 kilometres north of Edmonton

The board members (led by Ann Knelsen, the board’s fundraising co-ordinator) started approaching community businesses and the local municipal district as well as looking for other sources of funding.

As Mary Driedger (the Director of the local Family and Community Support Services office) says, “We’ve done a lot of fundraising over the years.”

They’ve also had a lot of help from local businesses. For example, a local sanding and gravel company has donated $50,000 each year for the last two years. Many local businesses (e.g., logging companies) also donate generously. As an incentive, any business that donates over $1,000 gets a plaque on one of the benches along the trail.

Altogether, Mary Driedger estimates that the local community has raised “several hundred thousand dollars” toward building the trails.

The Municipal District of Mackenzie gives a $20,000 matching grant each year. The municipal district also maintains and repairs the trail.

Beng Friesen says that it’s really helped to have an experienced trail-builder build the trails. The La Crete project used a local contractor who’d been in construction for years (and who donated part of his time spent on the project). Doing the job right from the start means fewer maintenance and repair costs over the years.

La Crete - new walking trailThe trails project also received a grant from the provincial government’s People with Developmental Disabilities fund to make the trail accessible for people with disabilities. Benches and bathroom facilities along the trail are one way to help people with disabilities and older adults use the trails.

Beng Friesen says that the first phase of the trail starts right across the road from the seniors’ residence. He says that they’re eventually hoping to connect all phases of the trail together to make it easier for seniors to enjoy the full trail.

Board members have come up with several creative fundraisers. One of the most successful was to “sell” a section of the trail to local residents for $50 a metre. A sign on the trail lists all the donors. Beng Friesen says that this community “ownership” also means that people take better care of the trails.

Friesen says that the number of people using the trails “depends on the weather.” Some “people walk at minus 30.” He estimates that between 50 and 300 people use the trails every day in the summer.

According to Martha Froese, a member of the walking trail committee, various community groups use the trails, including the school (for Phys. Ed. classes), the annual run for breast cancer and the Alberta family marathon. “Lots of people bicycle and roller blade on the trail.”

The town now has five kilometres of paved trails going both east and west of town. Mary Driedger sees several positive spin-offs from the project. She says that there are “a lot more people walking.” She also sees “more older adults on the trails.”

Beng Friesen adds that another positive spin-off from the trails project is that they’re also hoping to improve the local campsite and lakefront. Martha Froese says that they just extended the trail to a picnic site by the lake in the fall of 2007.

Friesen says that you really need “a board of people that work hard to make this go.” As he says, it takes “a lot of dedicated volunteers and community support” to make a project like this work over the years.

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