Mayor Iveson optimistic river valley trail in Rossdale will reopen east of Walterdale Bridge this year

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson speaks to reporters on March 12, 2018. Global News

Following city administration’s presentation of a report to Executive Committee on Monday about the status of Edmonton’s river valley trail closures and cautions, Mayor Don Iveson sounded confident that a popular stretch of trail near the Walterdale Bridge will reopen some time this year.

“I know a lot of people love that part of the river valley near Rossdale that curves behind the old power plant and connects to the new bridge that we’ve built, and partially because of bridge construction and because of some other issues along the trail, it’s been closed for quite some time,” Iveson said. “I’ve just had lots of feedback from runners’ groups and other folks that they really would like to see that trail open so it was really good to hear that in this year, we’ll have that Rossdale trail open east of Walterdale Bridge.

“They didn’t have a firm timeline on it but the goal is to get that done in this construction season, which is great.”

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The report says the stretch of trail from the Walterdale Bridge to 94 Avenue has seen the deterioration of its asphalt surface. The trail originally closed in 2013 because of bridge construction and the asphalt’s deterioration occurred since then.

The report found three trails (parts of Keillor Road, Whitemud Ravine South and Forest Heights Park) are likely to remain closed permanently because of washout conditions or because they are simply beyond repair.

Aside from the Rossdale trail, five other trails that are currently temporarily closed are in various stages of rehabilitation or being redesigned.

Watch below: On Nov. 28, 2017, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about how millions of dollars are needed to keep Edmonton’s river valley trails in working order.

Click to play video: 'Task of maintaining Edmonton’s river valley trails' Task of maintaining Edmonton’s river valley trails
Task of maintaining Edmonton’s river valley trails – Nov 28, 2017

The subject of making Edmonton’s trail system universally accessible was also discussed.

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“The notion of universal access or barrier-free accessibility to our trails would mean ensuring that they don’t have slopes in them that are difficult for people — particularly folks in wheelchairs — to overcome, and most of our trails meet that standard but there are some, because of the geography and terrain of the river valley, where you’d have to put in switchbacks and stabilize the slope to put in switchbacks and other things that might just be unfeasible,” Iveson said. “The reassurance was that the city does its best effort to provide universal access and that there are just a few areas in the terrain where that’s not possible, but I think we heard that that’s desirable.

“It’s only a matter of time in my view before federal laws require universal access, so I think it’s the right thing to do from a human rights point of view.”

Charles Richmond with Sierra Club Canada was at city hall on Monday and said his organization is advocating for universal access to trail across the country. He said he would have like to have seen universal access be more of a “foundational part of that document” when speaking about the report.

READ MORE: Sierra Club questions lack of accessibility in Edmonton’s river valley plan

Richmond said while the federal government doesn’t dictate what happens in cities, he’d like to see Ottawa use its leverage to promote universal access more aggressively.

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“They can say, ‘If you don’t follow these standards, you don’t get one penny of federal infrastructure money.'”

Iveson said there were parts of the presentation that provided further insight to council for what options it has available to them while working to improve universal access to Edmonton’s trail system.

“We heard that crushed gravel is a good trail surface that qualifies for universal access, it’s both cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain than asphalt,” he said. “So I think the discussion was that we don’t need asphalt everywhere and that asphalt can be costly.”

READ MORE: 1/3 of Edmonton river valley trails are not in good condition: report

Watch below: On Nov. 20, 2016, Julia Wong filed this report about a report that was headed to Edmonton’s Community and Public Services Committee that finds roughly one-third of the city’s trail network is in fair or poor condition.

Click to play video: '1/3 of Edmonton river valley not in good condition' 1/3 of Edmonton river valley not in good condition
1/3 of Edmonton river valley not in good condition – Nov 20, 2016

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