Crowsnest Pass council considers protecting snowmobile trails

·4 min read

People have been trying to make travel over snow more convenient since the early 1900s.

Various forms of motorized sleds took shape over a century ago, but Carl Eliason’s design of a mounted two-cylinder motorcycle engine on a long sled, steered by skis at the front and propelled by a single, endless track, is typically considered the prototype of the modern snowmobile. The design was patented in 1927.

Nearly 94 years later, Crowsnest Pass council is considering ways it can protect snowmobilers’ enjoyment on local trails as the winter season winds down.

Trailblazers

Christine Sweet, a lands division management specialist from Alberta Environment and Parks, contacted administration requesting the municipality consider erecting a gate south of the Sartoris Road staging area.

AEP has received complaints concerning wheeled vehicles driving up groomed snowmobile paths, ruining the popular trails. The proposed gate would prevent the vehicles from accessing areas intended for snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and snowshoers.

Although the trails are on Crown land, the municipality has jurisdiction over the section of road by the staging area.

The gate would be locked only during winter months. Though not official, a time frame of Dec. 15 to April 15 was suggested.

While supporting the idea, Coun. Dave Filipuzzi said more consideration should be given to other recreational pursuits when determining when the gate will be closed.

“When they refer to winter months, what would be the time frame? I guess I’m thinking about hunters,” Coun. Filipuzzi said. “I would like to see it stay open for hunting season because there are a lot of good hunting areas up in that place.”

Additionally, administration determined a second gate farther south on the Castle side of Sartoris would also be needed so as to prevent northbound vehicles from becoming stranded.

Since that portion of Sartoris Road falls under provincial jurisdiction, council voted in favour of paying for a gate near the staging area on the condition that the province agrees to place a gate farther south.

Ag fieldman appointment

Delayed signing by the provincial government for a $100,000 grant through its Agricultural Service Boards grant program left administration working quickly to secure the money.

The municipality had applied and qualified in 2020 for the funding, which requires a qualified agricultural fieldman be employed as dictated by the Agricultural Service Board Act.

Because the provincial signatures were delayed, the local agricultural fieldman retired before the grant was finalized. As a result, the province informed administration the municipality did not qualify for the $100,000 unless a replacement was appointed before March 10.

As a temporary solution, council appointed chief administrative officer Patrick Thomas and manager of protective services Jesse Fox to jointly serve as the municipality’s agricultural fieldman.

CAO Thomas holds a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering, specializing in environmental engineering, and Mr. Fox has overseen the agricultural services department for the last three years. The experience of both satisfies the grant requirements.

While the decision is not a permanent fix, CAO Thomas said it was necessary to secure the grant money.

“We’re definitely not looking for this to be our long-term solution,” he said. “But it ticks the boxes that the province wants to be ticked.”

Coleman post office

After catching wind of a public request to reinstate a post office in Coleman, council invited public input to determine whether the matter would be pursued further.

After receiving only five letters after six weeks of waiting, Coun. Lisa Sygutek said the lack of feedback did not justify further effort investigating the matter.

“As far as I’m concerned, this issue isn’t an imperative that we need to force onto administration to move forward,” said Coun. Sygutek.

“I think we went above and beyond trying to get the public’s opinion on whether or not they wanted a post office open, and I don’t feel we have gotten enough information from the people of Coleman that this is what they want,” she continued. “I think I’m just going to let the issue rest.”

Next meeting

The next scheduled regular council meeting will be held Tuesday, March 23, at 1 p.m. at the MDM Community Centre in Bellevue.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze