The completion of a long-awaited project that connected two neighbouring municipalities both literally and figuratively will be celebrated on June 4.
After a few years of delays, a ribbon-cutting for the Meadowlark Trail will finally take place on Sunday, bringing to fruition a project that originally began back in 2018.
The recently completed Meadowlark Trail is a recreational pathway linking Irricana and Beiseker. The approximately 10-kilometre trail is intended for runners and cyclists to travel between the two communities, be it for recreational purposes, commuting, or otherwise.
“I am very excited,” said Jeannette Richter, a Beiseker resident and the president of the Meadowlark Trail Society, which helped spearhead and oversee the trail's development. “Some of us started this when our hair was brown, and now it’s white. It’s been a long time.”
To celebrate the official unveiling of the new amenity, Richter said two events will take place on Sunday. At 10 a.m., a soft celebration will commence at the Irricana trailhead, with a pancake breakfast provided by the Irricana Lions Club.
“They actually started the whole project,” Richter said. “They did the first phase in Irricana and that got us on the map with TransCanada Trail.”
After the breakfast, attendees can walk, run, or cycle to burn off the pancakes by travelling along the Meadowlark Trail to the Beiseker trailhead. There, the festivities will continue with music, balloons, a hotdog lunch provided by the Beiseker Lions, and then an official ribbon-cutting.
Richter estimated it should take most people an hour or two to walk all the way along the trail.
“The trail is a beautifully constructed trail,” she said. “It’s easy to walk on, run on, or ride your bike on. The top of the trail is the result of gravel crushing, so it’s fine gravel, and it’s been landscaped as well.”
The long-awaited amenity was originally supposed to open in 2020. Richter said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its opening, initially by a year, but eventually the delays extended even longer due to other factors.
She cited a variety of reasons for the repeated delays, noting there was some opposition to the project by a few area residents who lived near the pathway, and the society wanted to appease their concerns before moving forward.
“For instance, they wanted their properties to be shielded by trees, or to keep people away from their horses,” Richter said. “There were a lot of conditions, and that made it difficult…to get all the work done.”
Governmental bureaucracy was another hurdle the society had to overcome. The Meadowlark Trail Society had to work with both municipal councils in Irricana and Beiseker to see the project through, and also had to liaise with Rocky View County as they had to redesignate the land the trail is situated on.
Twice, the society had to apply for building permits through the County, as they needed to install culverts and bridges across the Rosebud River and Crossfield Creek.
While it's been a lot of hard work over the last five years, Richter said it's all been worth it now that the amenity is finally open to the public.
She said she hopes trail-users will come to appreciate the peace and tranquility that can be found by walking or cycling along the pathway.
“I think in our area, people have to drive everywhere,” she said. “So this is so nice because you can just step out of your house, tie up your runners or get on your bike, and away you can go. You can just enjoy being out in nature where there’s no problem with cars or trucks coming onto you if you’re on your bike.
“It’s quiet out there – you can hear the meadowlarks and you can see the farming that’s going on on either side of the trail. You can see the grain coming up, blowing in the wind, and then in the fall, you can see the grain mature to gold and be harvested by neighbouring farmers.
“It’s quite the experience. And it doesn’t cost anyone any money. That’s the wonderful part about it.”
Richer added that another great thing about the Meadowlark Trail has been the way the amenity has brought people from Irricana and Beiseker together. She noted how her initial motivation for getting involved was because an inter-municipal trail could be used by Irricana students to bike to and from school in Beiseker each day.
The Beiseker resident said by working on the project, she also formed connections and relationships with volunteers from Irricana who were just as keen as her to see the trail built.
“I’ve met a lot of the volunteers who come from Irricana [and] I wouldn’t have met them otherwise,” she said.