Another significant milestone was reached on July 8 to bring 'The Trail' one step closer to becoming a reality.

Cochrane has joined Rocky View County, Parks Alberta, and the City of Calgary in approving the plan of 'The Trail' that in two phases aims to connect the Trans Canada Trail from Calgary to Canmore along the Bow River corridor.

Its approval paves the way to complete Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with jurisdictional partners for the first phase into Cochrane. That is anticipated to be followed by additional planning, fundraising and construction with hopes of an Indigenous blessing this fall.

Project chair Alex Baum says getting buy-in from the jurisdictional partners is an important milestone.

"It doesn't suggest that the MOU will be approved, but we're certainly optimistic that when we bring that memorandum of understanding between the jurisdictional partners forward, that we'll have the momentum to carry it forward."

"Getting the jurisdictional partners to all agree on one item has been the challenge, but boy, I tip my hat to all of them. They've been a delight to work with and we're getting closer to the finish of the planning portion of this and then we can get busy with the spades."

The MOU is the who, what, where and why to implement the project and includes such things as who owns what, life cycle items and capital cost replacements.

Baum says most of that has already been worked out behind the scenes by legal teams.

"We were hoping to move that forward in July, but obviously we want to move forward cautiously with respect to the dam reservoir piece that are in front of us right now. We'd like to get a decision made by our province on the selection of where that dam will go."

"If I could wish out loud, it would be that they do make that announcement and from our perspective it's the Ghost option. Then we can move ahead with an Indigenous trail blessing in the latter part of September, early part of October, and then begin the exciting stuff of finishing the trail into Cochrane."

The Glenbow East proposal would cripple a series of Bow River parks and The Trail project as well as put Cochrane in harm's way.

Significant strides have been made since Rotary International clubs, spearheaded by the Cochrane club, held the Rotary Music and Motion Fall Festival in 2012 to announce their vision.

"I think all the exciting thing about it is, we actually get to leave this as a legacy for the generations to come. What a good thing, active lifestyles, I mean it's just a gift that keeps on giving."

To date, over $600,000 has been invested in the project. All these funds have been raised and they have a contingency plan is in place to complete the planning process. About $400,000 came from donors.

"These donors, we cannot speak enough about them," Baum told council during the July 2 presentation to council. "These are individuals who believe in this project even though it may not go. Going to a donor and saying you're going to make a donation towards planning doesn't real excite most donors, but they were there, and the funds did roll in."

Trans Canada Trail officials have called it a once in a lifetime project.

The 28,000-kilometre Trans Canada Trail Network, considered the longest recreational, multi-use trail network in the world, has already provided an estimated $10 million in economic value through the provision of ecosystem services and an estimated $306 million in Alberta alone in economic value of quantified health benefits. In general, trails in Alberta had an estimated $2.9 billion economic impact.

map 2A map illustrating the existing Trans Canada Trail route (in red). The preferred new connection is in yellow. (map/TheTrail)