On February 24th I had the opportunity to attend an open house put on by Alberta Environment and Parks to update the public on progress of the Backcountry Trail Flood Rehabilitation Program and plans for the 2016 season.
This program was announced in 2014 with $10million in funding to repair, reroute and improve trails damaged by the 2013 floods (Original Press Release).
The mandate of the program covers the Public Land Use Zones (PLUZ) outside the Provincial and Wildland parks in the Alberta front ranges.
Its a huge area that spans north of Waterton National Park, through The Castle, Kananaskis Country, The Ghost all the way to Nordegg. While much of the damage in this area was to motorized trails (4×4, quad and motorbike) there has been a fair amount of work directed at hiking trails as well.
As of last year they had completed 78 projects, replaced 71 bridges, and restored 349km of trail. Over 2600 hours of volunteer work from a number of groups have also helped out.
For hikers, the biggest improvements have been along Jumpingpound Ridge with new bridges going in at Lusk Pass. Many of these trails haven’t been as accessible with Powderface Trail having been closed since the 2013 floods (this is the gravel access road between Sibald Flats and Elbow Valley) , however one exciting piece of news is that they fully expect the road to be open in May, putting these trails back in the range of day hikers.
Other repairs include the Prairie Creek and Powderface Creek trails which I got to see first hand in October 2015 when I did a morning hike of the Prairie/Powderface creek loop. This is a great little trail that’s accessable year round just past the winter gates on highway 66 in Elbow Valley (just remember to bring your microspikes in the winter). The new bridges and reroutes will definitely make this trail more sustainable, and hopefully more survivable when the next flood hits.
For this year, most of the hiking trail work will be taking place in the Sheep (south of Elbow Valley) and details should be available soon along with volunteer opportunities. I’ve also asked if they plan to hold a similar open house for trails in the wildland and provincial parks in Kananasksis. We’ll let you know when we hear more.