A group of homeowners concerned with the Town of Canmore's plan to pave a gravel pathway held up a council meeting on Tuesday and RCMP were called.
The tension surrounded plan to change the West Bow River Pathway, a gravel multi-use path that runs along the south side of the river. The changes include widening the pathway to at least 3.5 metres, realigning many sections and replacing two of the bridges.
Funding for the pathway was approved during budget discussions in December 2021. Construction is anticipated in 2023.
Council had received letters from the group, calling themselves Friends of the Path, asking questions about the planned changes.
In an information package sent to the town council on Oct. 24, the group detailed its concerns about the plan.
Some of their concerns include safety around a wide paved path for a mix of users, impact on wildlife, changing the character of Canmore's laid-back mountain vibe, and comfort for people jogging and walking.
"We know what e-bikes are capable of … when the path is straightened out and paved," Elizabeth Jennings said. "It's going to be high-speed chaos."
One of the things Nancy Pon hopes to see is a public hearing on this issue.
"What benefit does it do for them to shut people like us down because they just want to ram something through, hoping that we'll eventually see the wisdom of their ways without the public engagement," Pon said. "It's very upsetting."
Project already going forward
Mayor Sean Krausert said this project aligns with the 2018 Integrated Transportation Plan, which was approved after public consultation.
Further, it's an update to an existing path on town land without environmental concerns and isn't a project that warrants a public hearing or further engagement.
"The town's public engagement policy says that this is an inform-level type of public engagement," Krausert said. "If your sidewalk needed replacement over time, you would be informed that your sidewalk is going to be replaced. This is a pathway that's existing and it's going to be, it's going to be improved."
In the meeting, Krausert addressed the group's questions contained in the letters, but several residents in the council chamber weren't satisfied — interjecting with more questions and statements.
The meeting could not be called to order, speaking out of turn goes against procedural bylaws that govern council meetings.
Chief administrative officer Sally Caudill told Krausert that if RCMP needed to be called, that's what they should do.
RCMP ultimately called
Bev Service, with the pathway group, approached the mayor with a petition she said contained nearly 1,700 signatures, and Krausert asked her to submit it to administration.
Outbursts from the audience continued, and then several people shouted that the mayor should call the RCMP.
One resident, Rob Jennings, said he was shocked by the council's unwillingness to listen.
The mayor responded.
"Sir, well, you can be shocked. The fact is democracy has worked. We have had the process, we have had the public engagement just — just because you missed it doesn't mean it didn't happen," Krausert said. "I am going to have to ask you to leave now, please."
The group left the chambers and two RCMP officers did show up, but the situation did not escalate.