Clive Keen thinks its about time there was a full trail around Hudson's Bay Slough.
Prince George's primary inland water feature has an official walking trail on its entire south shore, starting with a picturesque beginning at Exploration Place and a natural crossing at Oak Street. Yet the return trip on the north side is an awkward chain of dirt paths and sketchy surroundings that still gets one around to the beginning again in only about 40 minutes.
It's perfect, if only it were groomed to civic standards, said Keen, one of the key leaders of the Prince George Naturalist Club.
"It's the only wetland we've got other than Cottonwood Island," he said. "If this enhanced circular walk could be created, we would have a very attractive central city destination for naturalists, dog-walkers, visitors, and those seeking gentle exercise. Upgrading of existing informal paths would offer a route back to Exploration Place through a pleasant variety of habitats."
Because it is an active, fluctuating wetland, the best form of trails would be boardwalks in the spots most contacted by the water, Keen said, just like the ones the municipality installed on the Ferguson Lake trail at the north end of the city and on the Greenway trails near UNBC.
Much of the city's trail system is paved but Keen saw no reason why this loop couldn't be installed using the cheaper and easier granular material used to construct the secondary trails throughout the municipality's network of pedestrian routes.
The city's own research supports notions such as Keen's. Since 1998, the city has had an official trails plan, and has done ongoing staff work and public consultation about trails. Almost 70 per cent of city residents report using the trails to some degree. The vast majority are satisfied with the granular trails, and 98 per cent of one survey's respondents said they would be satisfied with substandard trails as long as the city was working on improvements in the foreseeable future.
Seventy-two per cent of respondents said they would accept higher taxes for trail development.
This project would have multiple benefits, Keen observed. Since part of the loop would pass through a low-income area of town it would also inject positive new life into that neighbourhood.
It would also boost low-impact fitness, since this route would be short, simple and central enough to accommodate all levels of physical conditions.
"I initially approached the Caledonia Ramblers [the local outdoor recreation club] about this project, they are the real prodders for local trails, but this is not for ramblers it's for amblers," Keen said. "This would be the best walk in town."
Keen pointed to spots where boardwalk jetties could extend out into the slough where cattails and duck families coexist, as well as locations where high observation decks could be installed along with interpretive signs for passive learning in the area.
A full interpretive centre could even be built, possibly in Fort George Park at the natural start of the proposed circle tour. Keen said the city lacked such a facility even though most northern communities had some form of one, like Scout Island in Williams Lake, Good Sir Nature Park near Summit Lake, or the Lower Mainland's popular Reifel Bird Sanctuary.
HUDSON'S BAY SLOUGH FACTS
- Collects the city core's spring runoff and snow-dump melt.
- Main headwaters located near Pine Centre Mall and Carrie Jane Grey Park.
- Gets wider and deeper through the Carney Hill and VLA neighbourhoods.
- Bisected by Queensway.
- Widens into a pond that empties directly into the Fraser River.
- Located at the southern border of Fort George Park, near the traditional village site of the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation.
- Former seaplane base.
- The only in-city water feature south of the Nechako River.