Jasper National Park to get $66M biking, walking trail

Federal budget documents indicate the government is proposing a $65.9-million world-class walking and biking trail in Jasper National Park.

MP excited to buy new bike to try out trail which may link Jasper and Lake Louise

Tour of Alberta passes through Jasper National Park on Sept. 5, 2015. The federal government is pitching a $66 million cycling trail in the park, possibly linking Jasper with Lake Louise in Banff. (Jonathan Devich/epicimages.us)

Jasper National Park could soon be home to a walking and biking trail possibly linking Jasper townsite with Lake Louise along the Icefield Parkway.

Federal budget documents indicate the Trudeau government is proposing $65.9 million for the trail.

Few other details are available, including where exactly the trail will be located, leaving speculation to run rampant.

Loni Klettle was born and raised in the mountain town and her father was a Jasper Park warden for 35 years.

She says the rumour mill is churning.

"This is just all coffee, downtown, you know, street corner talk," she said. "But we're just going, 'Oh my gosh, $65 million is an unbelievable amount of money.'

"The only thing that we can bet on is a trail of some sort for bikes and walking, hiking, whatever, will be built from Jasper to Lake Louise."

Information about the trail won't be released until an assessment is complete, said Yellowhead Conservative MP Jim Eglinski.

Eglinski thinks a trail from Jasper to Lake Louise would make a lot of sense, but wouldn't confirm if that's the plan.

Similar to Banff/Canmore trail?

When asked if it would be comparable to the Legacy Trail which runs from Banff to Canmore, Eglinski said, "I think we're looking at a very similar type of trail system. Yes, very similar."

Eglinski is thrilled that parts of the trail could be open in 2017 in time for Parks Canada's 150th anniversary.

"I'm excited about it opening and I think I'd like to get a bike and go out and try it myself."

Based on the 14 million people who viewed the Tour of Alberta last year, Eglinski expects the trail will draw tourists and cyclists from around the world.

"I think this is going to be great for Jasper Park," he said, "It's something that is needed and it's going to be good for the surrounding communities, it's going to be good for Alberta, good for Canada."

But he does have some criticism of the Liberal proposal.

"It's a lot of money," said Eglinski, "I think we probably could have used the money in other areas, for housing and social assistance, things like that."

Klettle, a back-country enthusiast, thinks reaction will also be mixed among those who live in or frequently visit Jasper.

"Some people are going to be dead against it, some people are going to love it, some are going to question why," she said.

"I do always want money to be spent in our back country. Obviously they want more people in the front country, so this is why this big chunk of money has been allocated to building more of a front-country trail."

Back country or not, Klettle would be overjoyed with a trail from Lake Louise to Jasper.

"It's the nicest highway in the world, why can't we have a trail that's going to be the most beautiful in the world as well?

"If the government wants to spend that money, you know what? Go for it, because it will be unbelievable and I'm looking forward to being on it."

With files from the CBC's Travis McEwan


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