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Valley Trail extension design due this month

Trail to be extended from Spring Creek to Function Junction by fall of 2010

The extension of the Valley Trail from Spring Creek to Cheakamus Community Forest should have a design ready by the end of the month, the municipality confirmed Friday.

Michele Comeau, manager of communications for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, stated in an e-mail that a route has been selected for the extension and a "rough survey" has been completed for it. The municipality expects to have a detailed design for the project completed by the end of August.

The Valley Trail is being extended with assistance from British Columbia's Towns for Tomorrow program, which announced a $375,000 grant for the project on March 19 in a joint press conference by MP John Weston and MLA Joan McIntyre. Weston said at the time he hopes the trail extension will encourage people to leave their cars at home.

The extension will essentially follow the path of an existing trail that begins in the forest to the south of the road that takes you into the Spring Creek neighbourhood. It will follow and expand that trail, currently used for hiking and mountain biking, right to the parking lot for the Cheakamus Community Forest. The parking lot is just across the highway from Function Junction.

That, at least, is the rough route that's being planned at the present time, according to Frank Savage, a planner with the municipality.

"That's really just about the best route for a paved Valley Trail," he said. "It's a costly piece of trail and the provincial trail funding that we got is really going to make it happen."

Once completed in the fall of 2010, the Valley Trail between Spring Creek and the community forest will fill a missing piece in the popular recreational path and provide a safer passage for residents of Spring Creek who work in Function Junction. It will also connect the new Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood to the Valley Trail system.

The completion of the extension will also form a key piece of the Sea to Sky Trail, a multi-use trail that proponents hope will one day traverse the corridor from Horseshoe Bay to Lillooet and beyond.

Gordon McKeever, project manager for the Sea to Sky Trail, said in an interview that the Valley Trail will serve as the Sea to Sky Trail's path through Whistler. South of the Valley Trail, it's expected that the path will go from Cheakamus Crossing and then across a suspension bridge and down to the Whistler Bungee bridge.

From there the plan is to go south of the Callaghan-Cheakamus area and then follow a trail that's already being built between Whistler Bungee and Brandywine Park.

"We managed to find an old hydro service road that goes back to the very first transmission lines," McKeever said. "That route takes us right into the park and will come out... right on the trail that goes out to the lookout for Brandywine Falls."

McKeever is also looking into a connection in the Pemberton Valley along Highway 99 that could establish a safe route next to the road, linking Pemberton with Mount Currie.

"That's ongoing right now and will become part of the Sea to Sky Trail route," he said. "The rest of the northern part of the route, the community engagement process is going to be gearing up this fall."

Part of that process will include a report to Pemberton council in September as well as a recommendation for a "community information exchange" in the fall.