The province has given the future of recreational trails in Prince George a boost.
The Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure has doled out $15,000 to plan for a 7.8-kilometre recreational trail along Otway and Miworth Roads.
The money is part of the ministry's Bike BC branch, which this year is supporting 21 projects to expand and build cycling lanes, trails and paths across the province.
"The phase we're funded for is to allow the project to move into the implementation and construction phase - which we don't have funding for," said L&M Engineering's Luke McDonald, who is leading the project. "That involves preliminary tasks like assessing the feasibility of the trail network and producing a prelim alignment and identifying the financial and logistical aspects of the project."
Despite its lack of sidewalks or shoulders, the corridor between the Otway Road-Foothills Boulevard interchange and Catherine Drive is a popular spot for non-motorized traffic.
"It's a conversation that's been going on for a long time because that road corridor connects to the Otway Nordic Ski Centre, which is actually a really great mountain biking trail system as well," said Prince George Cycling Club president Jillian Merrick. "There's been a lot of conversation and demand to see either some lanes or a separate pathway along that corridor to connect it."
"The Iceman is run on it, lots of joggers use it, lots of cyclists use it, the Nordic ski club contributes a lot of recreational usage to that road," agreed McDonald. "So getting a trail on the side of it would make things safer."
In its early stages, the concept for the trail is a three-metre wide, non-paved path that attempts to stay away from the CN Rail crossings, said McDonald.
The alignment has not yet been determined, but is being discussed with a variety of stakeholders.
"The possibility of an expanded trail network in the Otway-Miworth area has been the dream of a hardworking group of people for some time," said Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond.
McDonald said a number of groups volunteered their advice during the brainstorming days, including the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, the city, the cycling club, the ski club, the Greenway Trail Society, property owners and the 2015 Canada Winter Games Host Society.
Despite the involvement from the Winter Games organizers, the trail is not a legacy project.
"We're looking forward to seeing what the end results are," said Merrick. "It's definitely part of the overall strategy that the city has for its trails planning, so we're supportive in that capacity."
The trail is being designed with an eye toward potential linkages to the existing Cranbrook Hill Greenway and Moore's Meadow trails, McDonald said.
"Getting people to cycle, to get some physical activity while enjoying the fresh air during our warmer months, is a great long-term investment," said Prince George-Mackenzie MLA Pat Bell. "It keeps people healthy and is a great leisure activity for the whole family."