I was at the Public Consultation for this project in Edmonton today. Learned quite a bit and have some thoughts.
1) It must be said that the presentation itself was very well done and it really felt like the Parks staff were listening.
2) The official word is, and I quote, "A decision has not been made to go ahead with this project". The whole thing was cast as a consultation about whether or not to go ahead. However, the structure of the consultation was very much focused on design, construction, and usage of the trail. It looked at risks about construction, environment, cultural effect, and visitor experience with a focus on possible mitigation strategies. It very much gave mixed signals, in part because I am not sure the park itself wants to go ahead with it but feel like they may have to at the whims of their political masters.
3) The proposed design is actually very good. It focuses on using the existing corridor, existing bridges, and the old road from the 60s wherever possible. There would be very little new disturbance of forest. There was also alot of focus on designing the trail to minimize the risks of animal encounters.
4) The funding for this project is being split as 64 Million from the Feds that they don't get and if they don't build it, and 20.5 million from the park itself. They justified the park cost by pointing to the $275 Million that they got for infrastructure renewal in 2014 as possibly freeing up the funds from the existing infrastructure budget.
5) There were some legitimate concerns about pressure on existing things like accommodation, parking, and other facilities as well as maintenance costs that were not addressed based on it being too early in the consultation process but they promised that they would be looked at during the design process if it gets that far. For what it is worth, based on follow up conversations I believe they are sincere about that.
Overall, it was a very valuable event and i would encourage you to go to the ones in Calgary and Banff over the next two days if you have a chance. Give your input!
Not the fastest, but I get to where I am going and enjoy it.