Expansion of XC trails at COP

Blaine Chicoine of Foothills Nordic ski Club sent this email to me:

Many of you will know that there’s been talk of expanding the cross-country ski trails at COP for years. The idea is to build 5-10 km of additional trails on the undeveloped slopes to the east of the existing trails and connect them with a bridge or tunnel over Bowfort Rd. These trails would have snowmaking and would be groomed for classic and skate skiing.

Much to the frustration of the Nordic community, this project has started and stalled several times over the past years. The project is alive once again, but the difference this time is that if the trails don’t get approved and built, the opportunity will likely be lost forever.

Here’s what’s happening:

-> (Background: WinSport is the not for profit organization that owns and operates COP. Their vision is to develop and sustain the facilities needed to make Canada the number one winter sport nation.)

WinSport owns the undeveloped slopes east of COP. WinSport has sold the lands closest to the highway for commercial development with City zoning approval the only condition. WinSport’s application for re-zoning includes transferring the remaining 164 acres into a park under the control of Calgary Parks & Recreation. WinSport has included in their application a proposal to develop 5-10 km of cross-country ski trails on the 164 acres (with snowmaking & lighting). Under the proposal, WinSport would build, operate and maintain the cross-country ski trails. Theoretically, trail construction could get underway this summer, when the heavy machinery is in place for grading the commercial lands.

Anyone who has coached or skied at COP knows how dangerously crowded and unpleasant the 2 km trail system is getting. Foothills had to turn away many potential new members this year because of space constraints at COP. The situation is aggravated by the lack of cross-country ski opportunities in the City. Consider this: the City of Edmonton grooms and sets 29 km of trails, with Edmonton Nordic Ski Club grooming an additional 15 km. In contrast, the City of Calgary does not provide one single metre of cross-country skiing to its residents. The tracks at Confederation Park and Shaganappi are maintained by volunteers from Foothills and Calgary Ski Club, respectively, without any assistance from the City.

The demand for cross-country ski trails is enormous and the COP expansion is long overdue. However, there are many hurdles between now and achieving this dream. The rezoning must be approved by the City. The City must approve the plan to build the trails and WinSport must actually build the trails. The Nordic community will need to be actively engaged over the next few months – writing letters to City Council, WinSport and Calgary Parks and Recreation, as well as attending meetings and voicing strong and unequivocal support for this plan.

The next steps in the process are:

1. WinSport will host an Open House as a requirement of their re-zoning application. Members of the City Planning Commission will be in attendance.

It’s important that large numbers of Nordic enthusiasts attend this meeting.

WinSport must understand that the demand for additional cross-country ski trails is huge and unsatisfied and that the new trail system must be as extensive as possible. The date will be early February and Foothills will email members as soon as it has the information.

2. Planning Commission Presentation (Feb. or March) Planning Commission is chaired by Alderman Dale Hodges. The Planning Commission will receive submissions from the public and make the preliminary decision to approve re-zoning or not, prior to the plan being submitted to Council.

3. Presentation to Council in March or April. Same basic format as Planning Commission Presentation, with same opportunity for public input.

At this point we are mainly trying to raise awareness of the issue. Please spread the word about this plan to all your cross-country ski friends. We will keep sending email updates as the process unfolds. Many Foothills members feel passionately about this issue and will want to get more involved. We’ll need as much help as we can get.

At this point we are specifically interested in hearing from anyone who has experience in lobbying, public relations or advocacy work of any kind. As well, it would be helpful to hear from people with contacts in Parks and Recreation, the Calgary Sport Council, the City Planning Commission or City Council. Please contact info@foothillsnordic.ca

As more information becomes available, it will be posted on this blog.

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