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Gravel trails and other half measures in Prince George

The city's latest 'upgrade' means some people won't be able to enjoy Cottonwood

The City of Prince George recently announced that the trail at Cottonwood Island Park from the Cameron Street Bridge to the Replica Bridge near the Central Interior Railway Museum would be closed from May 21 to June 14 while crews tear up the heaved and cracked asphalt and replaces that asphalt with gravel.  One could argue that had the site had been prepared properly before that original asphalt was placed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation at all, but I digress. 

For those of us who are lucky enough to walk, run or ride a bicycle on the new gravel portion of the trail, the difference will be negligible. People pushing children in most strollers, or those in many makes of wheelchairs, walkers, or other mobility aides, may now find this portion of the trail inaccessible. For those of us who have been to the Cameron Street portion of the trail, parents with strollers are a regular sight. 

While this portion of the trail does need remediation, why are we looking at it in isolation, rather than the trails throughout Cottonwood Island Park in their entirety?  The asphalt trail closer to the train bridge is also cracked from weather and tree roots. Once it reaches a point of disrepair that the Cameron Street Bridge portion is in, are we going to rip of the asphalt and lay gravel for that portion too? 

We live in an age where accessibility and inclusion are often mentioned when discussing any project.  Doesn’t removing asphalt and replacing it with gravel, rendering it impassable to many, fly in the face of accessibility?

Parks such as Cottonwood are an oasis for people who live in the city. They’re places to recharge and connect with the splendour of nature, often with our family and loved ones.  Outings such as walks or rides along the river in Cottonwood are hugely beneficial to our mental health. 

One can look to Kamloops for a blueprint on how to properly address one of our premier waterfront parks. Their recently completed Riverside Park, on the shores of the Thompson River, features a fully asphalt-resurfaced trail throughout, as well as riprap along the shoreline to prevent further erosion. Looking in our own backyard, the asphalt trail that lines Tyner Boulevard all the way to Domano is what we should be planning for Cottonwood. 

Cottonwood Island Park, our gem where two rivers meet, deserves a plan that devotes the resources to make it accessible for all of us for generations to come.