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Urban Trail put on hold by Abbotsford council

Ravine Park is one of five areas that would be joined together by a proposed Urban Trail. Council will decide whether to spend $3.3 million on the project at its next meeting on Jan. 23. - Kevin Mills photo
Ravine Park is one of five areas that would be joined together by a proposed Urban Trail. Council will decide whether to spend $3.3 million on the project at its next meeting on Jan. 23.
— image credit: Kevin Mills photo

A proposal to create a $3.3-million trail system in Abbotsford has been put on hold, at least for a few weeks.

On Monday, council decided to re-examine the Urban Trail plan, which would have connected five recreational areas – Mill Lake Park, Ravine Park, Jubilee Park, Abbotsford Downtown and the Discovery Trail.

Mark Taylor, general manager of Parks Recreation and Culture, presented the concept, saying the “end result would be a three-metre-wide paved multi-use pathway” that would go from Mill Lake to Hazelwood Cemetery.

“The exciting portion of that would be a trail through Ravine Park which at this time is very under-utilized,” said Taylor.

Taylor said $2.3 million in gas tax grant funding was already in hand and approved for use by council. He said another $1 million in funding could be requested from the provincial government under the Community Recreation Program.

The annual cost to maintain the trail was estimated at $20,000.

The Gas Fund is monies generated from gasoline taxes and collected by the federal government. The money is given to the provincial government which then distributes it, through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) to various capital or planning projects.

Some councillors questioned the use of the gas tax funding.

“Have we already decided that we are going to put $2.3 million in gas tax toward trails?” asked Coun. John Smith.

Taylor explained that council in 2011 did approve the money to create a trail extension on the west side of town. However, the Urban Trail was considered a higher priority.

“Given the changes to our lives, and the changes to our economy ... should we be reconsidering what we do with that $2.3 million?” asked Smith.

He wondered if the funds could be used for more pressing issues, including investigating a new water supply for the city.

“Things have changed ... I’m wondering, as much as I love trails ... should we pause and reflect on what are priorities should be?”

Taylor said there is no hurry for this project and it could be brought back to council at another time.

City manager Frank Pizzuto told council there is “limited application” for the gas tax money.

“It has to be an environmental project and has to meet a standard. And in the past a few things that met the standard are bike trails, bike paths and trails... We really felt that trail construction was one of the better ones,” said Pizzuto.

Council deferred its decision until the next meeting on Jan. 23.

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