Residents of Miramichi will soon have more room for biking and walking throughout the community.
The city announced this week it awarded contracts for two projects to restore and add roadways, with construction to begin in mid-July.
"For some time we've been committed to enhancing our active transportation and trail network in the community," said Miramichi mayor Adam Lordon.
"We've heard from citizens that that's what they want more of, and it's something that we want to do more of."
About $800,000 will go toward adding pathways and ramps for pedestrians, including a pedestrian and bike crossing on Route 8 on the west side of the roundabout to connect St. Patrick's Drive and Sully Street, as well as a pathway from Jane Street to Hennessey Street.
A ramp will be built to access the sidewalk on the Miramichi Bridge from the access road to Strawberry Marsh, and a sidewalk on the King George Highway will be extended from Cove Road to the eastern entrance of French Fort Cove.
Another $175,000 will be used to repair sidewalks throughout the city, including on Water Street from King Street to Queen Street and King George Highway from Rennie Road to the westerly mall entrance.
The city built an active transportation plan based on consultations with the community last year, and made room in the 2022 budget to allow for this first project to move ahead.
"The plan will connect the city in a better way for people using active transportation, walking and biking," said Lordon.
He said currently parts of King George Highway and Water Street don't have sidewalks or widened shoulders.
"A mother told me she couldn't safely take her kid for a walk on a stroller because the sidwalk stopped and started," said Lordon.
"We're really pleased this is both going to be for recreation and tourism, but also really practically from a day-to-day perspective."
He said the first project is expected to be complete by the end of summer and won't require any lane closures.
"There may be some delays, but no substantive closures or detours," said Lordon.
Once complete, the city will look to add trails on the south side of the river.
Lordon said the city took a strategic approach when deciding to start with path construction on the north side, so it will already be complete when the Centennial Bridge goes under construction next year.
He said by the end of this year, a waterfront trail will connect the city from bridge to bridge on the north side of the Miramichi River.
"Within two years we'll have the entire river loop [finished] so people will be able to bike and walk safely in dedicated ways, up and down the river on both sides," said Lordon.
Lordon recognized that Miramichi is further behind than other cities in the province when it comes to trail infrastructure, but he hopes to eventually add off-road trails.
"I think we've heard loud and clearly over the last few years … to renew and invest significantly in all of the outdoor spaces," said Lordon.
He said the city has renewed most of the major parks in Miramichi's downtown area, and improving walkability within the community was "a logical next step."
Lordon said bikers, walkers, seniors and young parents have all been in mind while the city plans these pathway projects.