Banff– A controversial $86.4 million bike trail in Jasper National Plan is officially off the table.

Wednesday afternoon (Jan. 23), the federal government announced it wouldn’t be proceeding with the 107-kilometre paved trail between Jasper and the Columbia Icefield. There were plans to eventually extend the trail to Lake Louise in Banff National Park.

Officials say preliminary public feedback raised concerns over the potential environmental effects and high cost of the project.

“Parks Canada will be withdrawing from the Icefields Trail project and the funds originally earmarked for the project will be re-allocated to support priorities within the agency,” according to a news release.

“Details on the re-allocation of the funds identified for the Icefields Trail project will be announced in the near future.”

In the 2016 federal budget, $65.9 was allocated to the project, with Parks Canada later kicking in another $20.5 million from its own budget.

The Association for Mountain Parks Protection and Enjoyment (AMPPE) – which voiced loud support for this project – was very disappointed to hear about the cancellation of the multi-use trail.

“We were excited to support more visionary, environmentally friendly and inclusive human powered ways to experience the awe inspiring scenery in Jasper National Park,” said Casey Peirce, AMPPE’s executive director.

Environmental groups welcomed the news, noting they were worried the project would fragment and destroy critical habitat for endangered caribou and other species-at-risk like grizzly bears and migratory birds.

Kecia Kerr, executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Association (CPAWS) Northern Alberta chapter, said the trail also raised serious concern for the safety of cyclists and bears alike given its route through important grizzly bear habitat.

“We applaud the minister’s decision not to proceed with this new paved trail, which would have cost endangered wildlife like caribou their homes, and Canadians over $100 million dollars,” she said.

The paved bike trail was controversial from the get-go.

A memo obtained through Access to Information legislation in 2017 showed that the project was dreamed up in the offices of Parks Canada mountain parks executives in December 2014.

The memo – written by former Parks Canada CEO Daniel Watson – revealed executives got together to discuss a concept for the construction of a 230-kilometre trail from Jasper to Lake Louise.

The estimated cost in 2014 was estimated at $160 million, according to the memo, but as there was no money, the project didn’t move ahead.

However, the project was revisited in 2016 following a request by the federal finance department for infrastructure projects that could be implemented within two years.

Given the two-year time constraint, Watson’s memo indicated Parks Canada submitted a proposal with a reduced scope of work than the original proposal, specifically a 107-km section of trail from Jasper to the Columbia Icefield over three years.

The funding program included the environmental assessment and design work for the 130-km segment from the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre to Lake Louise, according to the memo.

There were also claims made that the project was already a done deal even though Parks Canada was consulting with the public.

At one point, Parks Canada put out a public tender call for the design and delivery of the trail – before the public consultation process had even finished. The tender call was quickly withdrawn when questioned by the Outlook.

 Original Article Here