Nordegg and the Bighorn Backcountry have been a magnet for recreational trail activity for decades. In recent years expanding development at Nordegg has seen increased trail use. Both the number and types of trail uses have expanded significantly (for example, OHV and mountain bikes). Each type of trail use has its own unique requirements for trails and recreational experience.
To date, conflicts among trail users have been limited. However, increased pressure for trails may eventually result in competition for trail routes and conflicts among trail users.
The purpose of the Nordegg Area Trails Concept Plan is to provide direction for future trail improvements and expansion so there will more opportunities for quality, sustainable trails for everyone to enjoy. The Trails Concept Plan identifies land areas where different types of trails can be developed and maintained, but not necessarily the exact route of trails.
Clearwater County and Alberta Sustainable Development will not be building new trails, but want the Plan to direct where volunteers and groups could build or maintain trails.
The Planning Area under consideration extends around Nordegg Townsite, east to Saunders/Alexo and west to the Bighorn Indian Reserve (see Plan Area on map). Trails within Nordegg Townsite are not the focus of this Concept Plan, but trail connections to the Town were considered.
Stakeholder participation has played a significant role in preparation of the Draft Trails Concept Plan. Meetings with local trail users provided knowledge and ideas on future trail management. Management agencies and local industries were asked to provide input to the Plan. A public meeting was held in Nordegg during the summer of 2012 to gather feedback on the proposed Trails Concept Plan, the finalized plan was first approved by the Bighorn Backcountry Committee and then Clearwater County Council late 2012.
The Concept Plan identifies the following (see Map):
- Non-Motorized Areas
- Motorized and Non-motorized Areas
- Staging Areas
These are areas where all types of non-motorized trails will be supported and designated (for example-hiking, biking, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing). The proposed non-motorized areas are all in close proximity to Nordegg Townsite, the highest population concentration in the Planning Area.
Specific motorized trails may be considered to traverse non-motorized areas for access beyond the non-motorized areas
Descriptions of each non-motorized area and potential trails are as follows:
Fish Lake/Goldeye– this non-motorized area includes the lands surrounding the Fish Lake and Goldeye Lake Provincial Recreation Areas. The rationale for designating the area as non-motorized is based on the existing regulations for the Recreation Areas that prohibit motorized activities. In addition, this area tends to be wet and unsuited to motorized trails.
Future non-motorized trails in the Fish Lake/Goldeye area could be developed to connect the two Recreation Areas, link to Nordegg and extend existing trails to provide several loops from the campgrounds and day use sites.
Shunda Meadows– the Meadows area is located between the Shunda Creek Road and Highway 734. The area is a riparian and wetland zone that protects the fishery in Shunda Creek and wildlife habitat.
The existing trail system in the Meadows could be expanded to a series of loops for winter and summer use. A motorized trail along Shunda Creek Road may be required to allow access to Baldy Mountain trails and more trails to the northwest.
Coliseum Mountain– the area includes all of the southwest side of Coliseum Mountain, plus the land immediately northwest of the Coliseum Staging Area. The existing Coliseum Trail is already designated non-motorized.
Non-motorized designation of the larger portion of the Mountain would allow extension of the existing Coliseum Trail eastwards as far as Beaverdam Recreation Area and the Ranger Station. In addition, a loop trail system for walking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing could be built from the existing Coliseum Staging Area, immediately adjacent to the Nordegg North Subdivision.
Beaverdam Valley-This area includes the creek valley south of Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area up to the top of the Eagle Ridge. The Valley provides access to a climbing area and an existing mountain bike trail runs down from Eagle Mountain.
Designation as a non-motorized area would allow extension of the trails from Coliseum Mountain, across Highway 11 and up onto Eagle Mountain.
Ranger Station to Rail Trail Connector Trail-This is a specific trail to re-open a non-motorized trail that was lost when a bridge over Shunda Creek was destroyed by flooding.
Eagle Ridge-the opportunity exists to designate a non-motorized trail along Eagle Ridge south to the North Saskatchewan River. The route is proposed as a non-motorized trail as it is above tree line on exposed rock that is unsuitable for motorized trails.
Motorized and Non-Motorized Areas
The remainder of the Planning Area is proposed to be available for both motorized and non-motorized trails. Trails within this area could be designated for specific types of use or as multi-use trails.
The following provides more information on each area proposed for both motorized and non-motorized trails.
Baldy Mountain- The area around Baldy Mountain is proposed to be a multi-use trail area. The existing trail to the top of Baldy Mountain is a popular route for many trail users. Existing resource roads and seismic lines around Baldy Mountain are also popular routes and could form the basis of a designated trail system.
The opportunity exists to build a loop trail north of Baldy and Coliseum Mountains, connecting to the Rail Trail at Beaverdam Provincial Recreation Area, as well as a connecting to a trail back to Nordegg on the north side of Highway 11.
Brazeau Ridge- This area includes the lands south of Nordegg, up onto the Brazeau Ridge and Eagle Mountain as far south as the North Saskatchewan River.
Past coal mining and resource activities have left an extensive network of roads and linear clearings within this area that are already very popular with trail users. The opportunity exists to designate and maintain many of these corridors for trails. In addition, the location is immediately adjacent to the Rocky to Nordegg Rail Trail that will provide improved access to the area.
Haven Creek- Located north of Goldeye Lake and largely west of Highway 734, this area is too wet for summer trails, but is well suited to snowmobiling.
The area is already popular with snowmobilers as it is less prone to snow melt than areas closer to Nordegg. A series of existing resource roads and seismic lines could be connected to provide an extensive series of winter trails.
Stolberg- This area is a large triangle of land south of the Stolberg Gas Plant, between the North Saskatchewan River and Shunda Creek.
The Stolberg area has an existing network of resource roads that could provide a starting point for a series of designated and managed trails. The Rocky to Nordegg Rail Trail may be routed through the area, increasing access and trail activity in this area.
Nordegg to Bighorn Dam Connector Trail- This route is located west of Highway 734, along the North Saskatchewan River Valley.
Development of a new staging area is planned along Highway 734 near the Nordegg Industrial Subdivision. The staging area will provide access to the west end of the Rocky to Nordegg Rail Trail.
Demand for a multi-use trail can be anticipated from the new Staging Area to connect west towards the popular trails near the Bighorn Dam. An historic wagon trail is located within this area that may provide a route for a multi-use trail.
Saunders/Alexo to Baldy Mountain Connector Trail- The lands north of Highway 11 between Saunders/Alexo and Baldy Mountain are proposed as a multi-use trail area.
Saunders/Alexo is a favourite camping area and starting point for many trail users, especially motorized use. The Rocky to Nordegg Rail Trail runs through Saunders/Alexo and the area is identified as a Development Node.
Demand for new trails to connect Saunders/Alexo to Baldy Mountain is anticipated.
Coliseum Mountain Staging Area is the only existing staging area in the Planning Area. In order to provide formal starting points and parking to support existing and future trails, several new staging areas are proposed.
Services at each staging area could include parking, an information kiosk and perhaps a toilet.
Rail Trail Staging Area- Construction of a new staging south along Highway 734 near the Industrial Subdivision will start in 2012. The new site will provide access to the Rocky to Nordegg Rail Trail. In addition, the staging area will provide access onto trails on Brazeau Ridge and could provide a starting point for a future connecting trail westwards towards Bighorn Dam.
The Rail Trail Staging Area could also be utilized to provide access into the proposed Fish Lakes Non-Motorized Area.
Baldy Mountain Staging Area(s)- At present there is no official staging area to access the trails around Baldy Mountain. Two potential sites could be considered.
The first site is located along the Baldy Mountain access road in the vicinity of the existing burn pit. A second possibility is along Highway 734 near the Trout Ponds. Either or both of these locations have merit.
East Coliseum Staging Area- Located at the existing Ranger Station, this staging area could provide access to the non-motorized trails proposed for Coliseum Mountain. Designating the site as a formal staging area would take advantage of the existing parking lot and toilet. The addition of highway signs, a new trail information kiosk and a connector trail around the Ranger Station would be relatively inexpensive.
Stolberg Staging Area- Development of a staging area along Highway 11 near Stolberg would coincide with management of a trail system south of Highway 11. A decision to construct the Rail Trail connector between Beaverdam and Harlech Provincial Recreation Areas south of Highway 11 may also be the trigger to develop a new staging area near Stolberg.