Cottonwood Connector creates safer access

The new walkway gives pedestrians a way of reaching the loop from the crosswalk at Birch St without walking on the highway.

The Cottonwood Connector’s grand opening was Monday Aug. 25 and will now give Fort St. James pedestrians a way of reaching the loop from the crosswalk at Birch St without walking on the highway. (left to right) Paul Sangha (CN Assistant Superintendent of Transportation) Joan Burdeniuk (Fort St. James Municipal Councillor and Transportation Committee Co-Chair) Mayor Rob MacDougall

Pedestrians of Fort St. James will notice an easier time getting around ‘the loop’ by Cottonwood Park thanks to a connector trail put in by the city.

The Cottonwood Connector can now be used for active transportation by residents where as previously they would have had to use the highway. The trail runs from the crosswalk at Birch St. parallel to highway 27 to meet up with the walking loop on the opposite side of Lakeshore Drive. The purpose of the new walkway is to have a safer pedestrian hiking and biking trail for community access, especially in the winter months, said Mel Chesnutt, event co-ordinator at the District of Fort St. James.

“When the snow is ploughed people would literally be walking on the road,” said Ms. Chesnutt. “Now people can have somewhere safe to walk or bike.”

Last year the ministry of transportation put in a crosswalk where Birch St and highway 27 meet so people would be able to cross safely. Until now there was no continued pathway up to where ‘the loop’ begins across from Lakeshore Drive.

In partnership with Tree Canada and Communities in Bloom, CN awarded the District of Fort St. James $23,000 in an EcoConnexions grant through the program From The Ground Up. The program is intended to enhance the environment and promote the greening of municipal properties across Canada in communities along CN rail lines. The criteria to receive funding is the project must include an initiative in one of five categories including urban forests, traffic calming and safety, school greening, transforming spaces or naturalizing areas, park creation or restoration.  Each application was judged on community engagement, sustainable development, technical expertise, recognition of CN’s funding, budget and overall project. Nearly 200 applications were looked at but Fort St. James was one of 30 selected for the grant.

With the money, not only was a connector trail put in, but the city also planted trees and flowers to add a scenic touch to the path as a part of CN’s tree planting efforts. The planting took place Wednesday Aug. 20 and was assisted by children in the Fort St. James recreation program along with seniors from the Stuart Lake Seniors Association.

Bonnie and Andy Kozley from the Seniors Association, along with their grandson Andy Jr 6, helped plant.

“The trees and flowers have made a big difference,” said Ms. Kozley. “I’m really impressed with the walkway. This way people don’t have to walk on the road.”

The trail’s grand opening was Monday Aug. 25 with music provided by Music On the Mountain and a barbecue lunch provided by the Music Makers Society. Representatives from CN and from the district joined in on the festivities, which turned out to be a sort of environmentally driven end-of-season bash for the recreational program kids.

“I liked planting trees and digging holes,” said Andy Jr. “I even helped take the worms out of the compost.”