No Metro cash available for Fraser trail

The Experience the Fraser route. - METRO VANCOUVER
The Experience the Fraser route.
— image credit: METRO VANCOUVER

A Metro Vancouver project aimed at reconnecting residents to the Fraser River — from Hope to the Salish Sea — got a lukewarm reception last month at Coquitlam city hall.

At the June 25 council in committee, Metro's Gaetan Royer and Heather McNell spoke about the Experience the River: Lower Fraser River corridor plans to tie into 16 municipalities via a trail network near the Fraser.

The initial concept got the okay last October by the Metro and Fraser Valley regional boards and it is expected to go before both boards this fall for final endorsements.

The 160-km Lower Fraser River project would knit into the larger Canyon to Coast Trail, stretching 550 km along the watercourse and serving pedestrians, cyclists and horseback riders as well as connecting heritage and First Nations cultural sites, amenities and other destinations.

Already, nearly half the trail is available using provincial, regional and municipal routes and the Trans Canada Trail.

The project, McNell told the committee, would take at least a decade complete; in Coquitlam, it's envisioned to run through Maquabeak Park (under the Port Mann bridge) as well as business and industrial parks, the yet unbuilt Fraser Mills Waterfront Village and to the New Westminster border.

City planning general manager Jim McIntyre said there are a few challenges to make the local link, especially around the industrial area off United Boulevard where there are public safety concerns.

But Lori MacKay, the city's parks GM, said the Experience trail could loop around sites not conducent to the project. "In the passage of time, we are looking to bring Coquitlam to the riverfront," she told the committee.

Asked by Coun. Mae Reid about expropriation, Royer said it would be considered as a "last resort." He pointed to an example in Delta where Metro was successful in securing land with the Port of Vancouver for the trail.

As for costs, Royer said the provincial government has kicked in planning seed money; however, Metro Vancouver doesn't have any cash sources immediately ready. As a result, member municipalities would be "key to the partnership" — a comment that seemed to bristle Coun. Brent Asmundson, who noted city halls are taxpayer funded and cash-strapped.

Royer and McNell's presentation came two weeks after Metro staff asked the board to declare an 18-month moratorium on the acquisition of new parkland while they reconsider how to finance the regional parks system and keep up with the demands of a growing population.

Royer and McNell plan to speak with other Metro city councils about the project this summer.

— with files from Jeff Nagel of Black Press


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