It is getting close to 60 years since Nancy Sinatra first extolled the virtues of having proper footwear for walking over life’s problems. Although residents of Beaver Mines may have boots made for walking, a corresponding pathway has not yet been made.
Talks with the MD of Pincher Creek have been occurring since 2014, though with the water-and-sewer project currently underway the Beaver Mines Community Association has revamped its efforts to take the next step in approving a walkway project in order to take advantage of disturbed land that needs to be restored anyway.
The BCMA attended the Aug. 23 MD committee meeting to present details of the proposed project with council members.
Residents’ support for a public pathway was nearly unanimous, said BMCA president Lynne Calder, because there is a need to address the current situation of residents walking on the highway bisecting the hamlet. Increased traffic to Castle Mountain Resort and Castle Provincial Park, she continued, has exacerbated the problem.
“We have a safety issue on Highway 774,” she said.
Despite the highway initially being designed with a wider shoulder on one side to accommodate pedestrians, a miscommunication in the painting centred the road over both shoulders, leaving little room for walkers.
“It's no longer safe, and it is getting busier,” said Beaver Mines resident Mary May. “I am just getting tired of walking on a highway, and I feel the need to start somewhere — we can start small.”
May had first-hand experience with the precariousness of the situation after watching her 15-year-old granddaughter almost get hit by a truck while she was jogging.
“She had to jump into the ditch to save herself,” said May. “It's just not safe running or walking on a highway.”
With the water project getting closer to completion, now is the time to move forward on a pathway, Calder said.
“A lot of the land we’re looking at has already been disturbed, and it has to be restored for something, so why not a pathway?”
The plan is to build a gravel or earth pathway (with the option of paving in the future) in three phases, which Calder estimates would run somewhere south of $350,000. The first phase would cost close to $100,000.
“My projection would be, between the grants that we can raise and the grants that you could raise, we should be able to raise mayble 40 per cent of that [$100,000],” Calder said.
The goal is to provide safe passage from one end of the hamlet to the other while keeping the path as far away from private property as possible, with additional trees and shrubs planted between properties and the walkway.
Minimal to no lighting is included in the concept, to maintain the rural culture of Beaver Mines. As the path would be built on public land, the MD would ultimately be responsible for maintenance.
While acknowledging the need for the path, Reeve Rick Lemire said some of the initial hesitancy from MD council in committing to the project was because the initial ask was much bigger.
“To be fair with you guys, when we’d first seen the proposal it was to be paved and lit,” Lemire said, “so we were wondering where that was coming from.”
In addition to a path, the reeve added that perhaps the speed limit could be lowered and the road lines repainted to make Highway 774 safer.
Part of the concern with a paved path, added Coun. John MacGarva, was the added costs to have engineers develop a plan; with a gravel or earth walkway, the engineering is much simpler, mostly to accommodate water runoff.
“I think we can keep this pretty practical,” MacGarva said. “When you showed the young lady with her baby on that shoulder [in the presentation], yeah, we gotta get people off the road there.”
Money aside, making sure a pathway worked in the space was a concern that would need serious consideration, added Coun. Tony Bruder.
“As far as bear-smart goes, maybe you’d want to keep your paths a little bit more open,” he said. Working with landowners, he added, would also be a tricky task.
“For me to have somebody walking on my land, I need to carry a pile of insurance,” Bruder continued, “so the idea of putting a public walkway on adjacent ranchlands, I can see the ranchers having a lot of pushback.”
Council followed up the discussion with a decision at the Sept. 13 regular meeting. Utilities and infrastructure supervisor David Desabrais was directed to move forward with scoping of Phase 1 of the BMCA pathway proposal to include in 2023 budget discussions.
Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze