News / Edmonton

City recommends options for making River Valley trails universally accessible

From crushed gravel on surfaces to wider trails, much could be done to make trails easier for people with mobility issues, advocates say

Jerry Roberge walks the river valley trails year round

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Jerry Roberge walks the river valley trails year round

Edmonton’s crown jewel may be its river valley, with 190 km of recreational trails—but it’s not accessible to everyone, a city council committee heard Monday.

City staff presented a report to the executive committee as part of an ongoing discussion about making the city’s natural spaces more accessible.

The new report looked at options like putting down crushed gravel on dirt trails, doubling the width of main trails to three metres and adding clear sightlines in areas with limited visibility.

Local disability advocate Zachary Weeks called the suggested changes “welcome options.”

“It’s definitely a positive in terms of making things more inclusive for people with mobility issues,” he said.

Weeks said the current trails have a number of challenges for people with disabilities, including steep inclines with no signage, narrow pinch points and a lack of overall maintenance.

He says the crushed gravel could be a useful solution if the right type of gravel is used and it’s properly compacted.

“I would hope that they (city) would have consulted with the appropriate people, in terms of ensuring that they are easy to roll on when you are in a wheelchair so you don’t get stuck or have a hard time going through,” Weeks said.

Mayor Don Iveson says that the city did discuss asphalt to cover the tracks but decided against it.

“The discussion was that we don’t need asphalt everywhere and that asphalt can be costly,” he said.

“Crushed gravel is a good trail surface that qualifies for universal access. It’s both cheaper to build and cheaper to maintain.”

The city has made accessibility a bigger priority recently; the funicular was built, in part, because it provided access to trails to those not able to navigate stairs.

“It’s only a matter of time, in my view, before federal laws require universal access,” Iveson said. “So I think it’s the right thing to do from a human rights point of view.”

The committee also discussed the re-opening of the Rossdale trail east of the Walterdale bridge. The trail has been closed since 2013 due to the construction of the bridge but is now projected to open this year, Iveson said.

“They didn’t have a firm timeline on it, but the goal is to get that done during this construction season.”

Councillors didn’t make any final decisions about river valley trails but asked administration for more information on how trails would be managed. Staff will come back to committee in the coming months.

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