19 years, 22.6 km, one dream: crews pave last portion of Rotary Trail

Crews finish paving the last portion of Prince Albert's Rotary Trail on Oct. 10, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Nineteen years after a group of Prince Albert residents kicked off a dream to build an accessible trail around the perimeter of the city, the project is finally complete.

Dignitaries, volunteers, trail users and committee members gathered on the west end of the city Thursday to watch, and help, as the last bit of asphalt was poured into place and flattened to complete the loop.

Mayor Greg Dionne, Deputy Mayor Don Cody and committee member David Fischl even put shovel to asphalt to help construct the final square, measuring about 2 metres in length and width. They watched as a construction crews spread the asphalt over the bare dirt, and then waited as the roller pounded it flat.

Almost two decades since launching the project, the 22.6 km Rotary Trail was done.

“It’s amazing, it’s absolutely amazing,” Fischl said.

“A lot of people said it wouldn’t happen. This was our dream. We really wanted to have this going around the city. There were times you were wondering if it was going to happen, but it’s been the support of so many people here today that made sure this was going to happen.”

Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne, centre, cuts the ribbon to open the completed Rotary Trail, assisted by (left to right) Jody Boulet, Dave Fischl, Don Cody and Wes Hicks. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

The project was initially spearheaded by the Prince Albert Safety Council The first kilometre was constructed west of the museum, along the riverbank, with in-kind support of CUPE Local 160, the Prince Albert Outdoor Workers. It cost $50,000, paid for by the city.

As work began, the committee expanded to include Rotarian Don Junor. Rotary sponsored the project, eventually raising $200,000 and earning the naming rights to the project.

Other sponsors and donors from across the city came on board. After years, the trail was nearing completion, but it took a $375,000 donation from Husky Energy and a $100,000 dip into a city reserve fund to finish the last 1.7 km this construction season.

The Husky contribution was part of a $1-million apology the company provided to the city as part of its efforts to make amends from the 2016 oil spill that took out the city’s water supply.

Before cutting the ribbon Thursday, Mayor Greg Dionne thanked Husky for their contribution.

“It was fitting they made a large donation to finish off the trail because that trail saved them lots of money,” he said.

The trail was instrumental during the water crisis since it provided a clear path for two water lines connecting other freshwater resources with the city’s water treatment plant. That access allowed Husky Energy to save an estimated $190,000 in pipeline costs.

Dionne added that when the project started, people questioned who would use the trail.

“The question today is who doesn’t use it?” he asked

“It’s well-received.”

Once the asphalt had begun to set, it was decided that Junor should be the first person to cross the completed trail. His wheelchair got stuck for a moment in the still-fresh blacktop, but with a little help, he was able to get free and be pushed across the final few metres.

Don Junor, front and centre, and other members of Prince Albert’s Rotary Club, pose for a photo on the newly-completed Rotary Trail on Oct. 10, 2019. (Peter Lozinski/Daily Herald)

Crews quickly filled in the holes left by his wheelchair and the square was good as new.

“We did a lot of work, a bunch of us were working on the trail. We put in a lot of time and I’m glad to see it finished now,” Junor said.

Being the first person to traverse the newly-completed trail was “wonderful,” he said.

“You felt you were part of something good for the city.”

Building something that everyone could use was a key goal of organizers from the start, Fischl said.

“Our dream was inclusiveness for everyone,” he said.

“The Rotary Trail is accessible to all kinds of users, including cyclists, inline skaters, wheelchair users, walkers, skateboarders and joggers. In the last 19 years, we’ve come a long way, 22.6 km to be exact. Over the years, there were challenges, but we did it. The trail around the City of Prince Albert is now complete.

“I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this project. Every day we see people using the Rotary trail. It’s truly been a project for everyone.”